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Around Neopia in 80 Days - Part Four


by burning_shadows_79

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Neopia is an amazing place, full of wonders and marvels. You haven't experienced Neopia until you've travelled to all its corners; any Neopian who stays in the shelter of their own home, and never explores the world, is missing out.

This is the fourth and final part of the itinerary for an eighty-day voyage across all the lands of Neopia. Having now explored the jungles of Mystery Island and the waters of Maraqua, visited the homelands of Neopia's faeries and pirates, and savoured the wisdom and beauty of Brightvale, you now come to the last leg of the journey. It begins in the historic land of Meridell, which preserves all the charm of centuries past - but it ends with an epic, space-age trip into the future!

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MERIDELL

DAY 61 - Tour the King's Castle

- Entering Meridell from Brightvale feels very much like walking back in time. Its civilisation is rather less refined than Brightvale; the technology and culture of Meridell has not changed for three hundred years. As a result, the architecture and goods here are very old-fashioned and life is much simpler, but there are still lots of things to do for holidaymakers.

Guests are welcomed warmly into the vast courtyard of the king's castle, but considerably less warmly when they enter the chambers of King Skarl himself. Famously grouchy, it takes a lot of effort and wit to bring a smile to his face, but since you're here you can't miss the opportunity to tell the king your favourite joke. Most likely he'll be unmoved, but occasionally a good joke will elicit a chuckle and King Skarl will reward you with a handful of Neopoints. Right outside, the castle treasurer will likely try to coax you over for a game of Double or Nothing - but this is really just a money sink, since King Skarl burns through an awful lot of Neopoints to look after his huge army and even huger appetite. Since you're here as a tourist, it's best to ignore the treasurer and head back to the courtyard. Kayla the witch has set up a small potion shop here; but most of the brews on offer have little or no effect, and those that work properly are very expensive, so it's best just to window-shop.

There are also lots of games in and around the castle. Visitors are free to enter the castle dungeons and look around - although you need to offer an explanation to the guards first, otherwise it might be a little difficult to get back out. The dungeons of Meridell are not for the faint-hearted: the cellars and corridors are full of dangerous traps and fierce sentinels, but Valrigard the Draik will reward you with some Neopoints if you can help him navigate the passageways and escape the dungeons. But if you don't want to risk making the guards angry, you can join Sinsi the Ixi for the mind-bending puzzle game of Shapeshifter. Outside, in front of the castle, you shouldn't miss the most popular local pastime: picking up a bat, swinging it at a tattered Kass plushie and seeing how far you can make Kass fly!

DAY 62 - Archery and Cheeserolling

Today has been set aside for the most popular and most iconic Meridellian sporting activities, both of which are time-consuming. A proper experience of archery can take up half a day; and although rolling a cheese wheel down a hill can take less than a minute, the associated trip to the Cheese Maker's Creamery is a lengthy tour which is not to be missed.

The sport of archery is crucial to the strength of King Skarl's army, but it is practised for recreation by ordinary citizens as well. On the archery range, not far from the Meridell Castle, an entrance fee of a few hundred Neopoints lets you hire a bow and a quiver of arrows for the day. There are a number of different weapons to choose from, all of which fire simple wooden arrows. The Regulation Meridell Crossbow is easiest to aim and shoot, making it ideal for novices; the Stonewood Longbow is much trickier to operate, but has the greatest range and power. The weapon used in Ultimate Bullseye II is a ballista: a large wooden launcher. This takes so much mastery to use that hitting the target (or targets) will earn you a Neopoint prize. After testing your skills at the archery range, if you like you can buy souvenirs, such as a Toy Arrow Launcher or the hilarious Ultimate Arrow Hat.

After stopping off at the Merifoods Shoppe for some hearty mutton stew, head across town to the steep hill that overlooks Illusen's Glade. At the top is a creamery, where the cheeses used in the famous game Cheeseroller are manufactured. The Cheese Maker allows tours - for a price - and you'll be able to see the different production techniques used to make the various cheeses. Just be aware that some of these techniques yield real horrors, such as Mutated, Dung, and Rotten cheeses: you might want to bring nose plugs for that part of the tour. Later, you will be led to the Creamery Cafe, where you can buy cheese slices in the finest flavours - Honey, Meaty, Triple Mustard, Smoked Snorkle, Peppermint, and Fragrant Ummagcheese are the best choices - and enjoy them with plain crackers and a simple cup of water. However, if you want an entire cheese wheel (which you might after tasting one of the slices), you'll have to work for it. Buy a cheese at the Cheese Maker's stall at the very top of the hill, line it up on the start line, and roll it down the incline as fast as you can. Watch out for rocks and fallen branches as you race down the steep slope, and if you make it to the finish line in under 60 seconds, the cheese is yours!

DAY 63 - Ye Olde Shops

As with all the lands in this itinerary, a day has been set aside for browsing the local retail outlets - although in Meridell's case there are few shops in the main city, so the latter half of the day is taken up with activities, which are far more prevalent than shops in this medieval land.

The local fauna are showcased at Ye Olde Petpets, which is located in a vast barn a few blocks away from the road that leads to Brightvale. The creatures here include a number of horses and dragons, as well as some of the most famous Petpets in all of Neopia: the Turmac, the Symol, and the Mortog. Turmacs are best known for their love of berries and their huge appetites, as you will see later; the Symol is responsible for digging the very long underground tunnel called the Symol Hole, which is popular with many Petpets; Mortogs are famous for starring in their own game, Kiss the Mortog, which is not a recommended activity for tourists as it is rather gross. After admiring the medieval fauna, head to Merifoods for a spot of lunch. The food here is simple, wholesome and satisfying, for the most part; nobody who is vacationing here will want to sample the gruel, but there are many other dishes worth a try: Meat and Beans, potatoes and gravy, Extra Creamy Soup with flat bread, and the Honey Basted Turkey Leg are all delicious. Draik Eggs stock here too, for some unknown reason... but they're extremely rare, so don't expect to find one (and certainly don't eat one!).

After lunch, head northwest towards the villages. En route, you will encounter the colossal Turmaculus, sound asleep in his field - visitors sometimes send their Petpets to try and wake him, but this is risky because the Turmaculus's appetite is as large as his bulk and Petpets are edible. Slip quietly past the Turmaculus and head for the Turdle Race Track instead. Turdles are not native to Meridell; the races are similar to (although significantly slower than) the Poogle Races in Faerieland, but they are still worth seeing because Turdles are now very rare: the nearby riverbank is the last remaining habitat of these clumsy little creatures, which are originally from Neopia Central and are now retired from the main shops. Entering the Turdles' habitat is strictly banned, but at least you can watch them waddling along the sandy race circuit, and perhaps place a bet on which Turdle will finish first.

DAY 64 - Hike through Illusen's Glade

Just behind the hill where the Cheese Maker's Creamery is located, there is a shady gully which is home to Meridell's lushest and most beautiful vegetation, and to Illusen the Earth Faerie. Unlike her arch-rival Jhudora, Illusen is quite content to allow tourists to explore her glade and admire the scenery. If you're keen on plants and flowers, this is an unmissable experience.

The path leading through the glade is bordered with broad-leaved trees which, thanks to Illusen's magic, retain their leaves all year round. This means you won't be able to enjoy a fiery display of reds and yellows in autumn, but it does create a wonderful oasis of plant life in winter. Perfume mallows, Wocky Gloves, and faerie bean plants cloak the forest floor. Another piece of evidence that these woods are enchanted comes from its fauna: several species found here, such as Carmarillers and Miamice, would otherwise be found only in Faerieland. There are wild Faellies here too - in their native Faerieland they are yellow, but in Illusen's Glade they are brown, or sometimes pale green. It is unknown whether this is a result of Illusen's earth magic, or simply because these Faellies have been living in the woods for such a long time.

Deeper in the forest, the spring birches start to give way to chestnut trees and pines. Different types of ground plants appear with darker leaves but much brighter flowers, such as lilies of the valley, Rainbow Morning Flowers and jewel blossoms. A stream flows through this part of the glade, and the dappled clearings between the tree trunks make great picnic spots. At the end of the long path, after a very pleasant hike, you'll find Illusen's clearing, surrounded by green orb plants and Extra Wild Orchids, the plant from which Illusens Staff is forged. If Illusen is home, she may ask you to do a quest for her, but she will be perfectly understanding of your visit being of a holiday nature. It is not known what she does with the items she obtains from quests, but it is rumoured that she uses them as agents for spells, to spy on her nemesis Jhudora and to protect herself from darkness magic.

DAY 65 - Meri Acres Farm

The centre of Meridell is surrounded by farmland, which is how the citizenry makes most of their money. The largest of these farms, Meri Acres, stands north of the city and is packed with activities for tourists. Indeed, the farm is so full of fun that it requires a whole day to properly enjoy.

Meri Acres grows several different crops: potatoes, marrows, hay, berries, and the kind of cereal grains used to make gruel. Each of these has its own field on the farm, and its own associated activities. The potato plants on Meri Acres thrive in the rich soil, and the two workers who manage the potato crop need your help to count the spuds. You can count the potatoes while they're laid out on the ground, or you can count them as they're thrown into crates to be taken to the market. The smaller marrow field may not produce quite so many veggies, but it does produce the largest: "Old Bessie" is a huge specimen, the pride and joy of the Wocky farmer who grew it. It weighs hundreds of pounds, and every day there are flocks of visitors who come to the farm to guess exactly how heavy it is - get it right and you'll be rewarded with a (much smaller) marrow of your own, or one of several marrow-themed prizes. The hay farm and grain fields receive visitors that are rather less welcome: hordes of hungry Slorgs come to devour the crops. Pick up a Slorg-B-Gone blaster and unleash it on the Slorgs, and you'll be paid a handsome fee for providing a pest control service... or at least, as handsome a fee as the farmer can afford.

Only one of the farmers who works on Meri Acres is willing to allow tourists to gather some of his crop to take home with them: Gilbert the Gelert, who farms three fields for rare Meridellian berries. This is the home of Pick Your Own, and for a few hundred Neopoints, Gilbert let you search the fields for anything he has missed. Most of the time, all that's left after the harvest is rubbish, such as bits of wool and barbed wire, rotten and half-eaten berries, and Gilbert's favourite fertiliser - but occasionally, you will find something edible. Missing a rare berry doesn't annoy Gilbert nearly as much as the sight of the Turmacs bounding and rolling along the fields, snapping up every berry they can reach. It's best not to be seen helping these Turmacs navigate the terrain when Gilbert is watching...

DARIGAN CITADEL

DAY 66 - The War Museum

The Darigan Citadel stands on a black landmass that hovers over the Meridell sky. Getting there requires paying a handsome fee to hitch a ride on one of the old war machines, which have been rebuilt as trading vessels for commerce between Meridell and the Citadel now that the wars are over. The violent history of this land is documented in detail in the Darigan War Museum, close to the castle.

The museum was built when Lord Darigan reclaimed power after the second war, and is not to be missed by fans of the Battledome. It showcases the relics of battle, which include some of the most impressive weapons and magics to be found anywhere in Neopia. The first of the two conflicts took place centuries ago, when the enchanted orb that brought prosperity to the Citadel was stolen by Meridell to lift their land from poverty. The Orb is said to have had a curious effect on the flow of time, and its destruction brought the Meridell and Darigan Citadel of 300 years ago into the modern Neopia. Lord Darigan was driven mad by dark magic and tried to claim the Orb's power for himself, only to be defeated and the Orb destroyed, ending the first war. The pieces of the shattered Orb are held in a glass case, along with a plaque explaining that the loss of the Orb's magic has relegated the lands of the Citadel to a harsh and barren darkness. Also displayed are replicas of the lethal weapons wielded by the Spectre of Darigan at the end of the first war, such as the Shield of Malevolence and the Darigan Sword of Death, along with plaques describing their terrifying power.

The second war started when Lord Darigan was forced into exile after his defeat, and General Kass took over. The same curse that had once afflicted Darigan now drove Kass to try to conquer Meridell, as well as giving him enormous might: however, he too was defeated, as Lord Darigan emerged from hiding to reclaim the throne. Models of Kass's weapons are also on display at the museum, with descriptions of their strength and effects (which are shockingly powerful). The evil magic that drove both rulers insane takes the form of the Three, a shady group of spirits who feature in a cautionary tale inscribed on the museum's stone walls: a warning of the dark future that awaits those who succumb to greed, revenge and ambition.

DAY 67 - Petpet Arena

After spending the night in the Black Spire Hotel, it's time to head for the suburbs. The Darigan Citadel is fairly lacking in activities compared to Meridell, but there are still some attractions here for tourists. Among these are the two favourite games of the locals and a toy shop for very brave children, but the highlight is the small stadium where Petpets engage in combat.

Those who have experience with the battle arenas for both Neopets and Petpets will tell you that although the Battledome may be great to take part in, the Petpet Arena is more for spectators: participants do nothing other than direct their Petpets to attempt a head shot, a body blow, or a defensive posture. Nonetheless, it can be fun to watch the skirmishes, depending on the species of Petpet taking part. Not all attacks are punches, kicks, scratches and tackles: there are many Petpets that can strike with thrown objects, stings and bites, pure energy, or even slime. (Gross!) A few of the robotic Petpets use cannons or lasers; Petpets painted Fire or Magma can attack with flames, while those painted Water can drench their opponents; and a handful of species native to the Lost Desert and the Haunted Woods can lay curses... but no attack is guaranteed to land. This is especially the case with fast-moving flying Petpets like Batterflies and speedy runners such as Miamice, not to mention Petpets painted Invisible. With enough perseverance and a large slice of luck, the Petpet combatants will grow steadily stronger.

Not far from the Petpet Arena is the training ground for new Darigan troops: the military is the largest institution in the Citadel, and preparing for combat is a serious business. The agility and defence courses are rolled into one, quite literally, in the form of Darigan Dodgeball (only for Neopets who have attained high physical durability). Next door is the sole retail outlet of the Citadel: a toy store. This is the only place to go to buy a souvenir, so give it a visit. Most of the items sold here are unnecessarily sharp, noxious, or thorny, and are best left alone. However, there is also an excellent series of action figurines, a home version of the popular Cellblock game, and even a Fake Kass Charm - but perhaps the best memento is the Spring Kass In A Box.

DAY 68 - Hike Around the Citadel

Apart from the War Museum, the greatest appeal for visitors to the Darigan Citadel lies in its architecture and its geography. The style of the buildings is dark and menacing, but very impressive; the scenery is forbidding but beautiful in its way, so a journey on foot around the borders of the Citadel is well worth the trouble.

The rocky path that snakes around the outskirts of the Citadel is tough to navigate, because the ground is rugged with plenty of steep hills. The first leg follows the citadel walls, which are ten yards high, built from foot-thick purple stone and topped with wrought iron spikes: this part of the path is fairly dull to traverse, but when the road disappears into the underground tunnels, the reason for following this path becomes clear. The Darigan landmass is imbued with powerful magic which keeps it aloft, and below ground it twists the cave walls and rock formations into bizarre and spectacular shapes: stalactites are contorted and knotted like black ropes, and the subterranean streams that carved out the caves are churned into rapids. Embedded in the walls of this narrow black tunnel are hundreds of glowing purple crystals; these are actually the same stones that adorn the handle of the Darigan Paint Brush.

The road emerges from the cave on a ledge which overlooks the Meridellian farmland; this windy lookout is a great spot to have some lunch and enjoy the view. The road continues through a passageway lit by tiny red lights, said to be produced by Petpetpets, and emerges inside the Citadel, at the rear of the castle. Now you can admire the most striking of Darigan's architecture: towering stone walls, narrow slits for windows, tall wrought-iron gates with spikes along the top, and curved structures enclosing the tops of the highest towers like immense black claws. The visual impact of these buildings is simultaneously frightening and awe-inspiring. Once you've taken it all in, follow the road to the Darigan highlands, where the castle gardens grow what few plants this barren land will support, such as Spiked Dariberries - most Darigan plants are inedible, but they serve as crucial ingredients in the magic potions which are the Citadel's primary export. Eventually the road leads back to the Citadel's front gates: it's time to ride the War Machines and return to ground level, this time Roo Island.

ROO ISLAND

DAY 69 - Games Room

Welcome to the entertainment capital of Neopia - a land of vibrant colour, fun and games, poetry and art, and (above all) Blumaroos. After landing in the port town of Blumaria and booking a room at Roo Island's famous Hotel Opera, it's time to enjoy the most important activity here for tourists and locals alike: playing games.

The Games Room has been refurbished a few times over its history, and was not always situated on Roo Island. It used to reside in Neopia Central, until a lack of space caused by the expansion of other businesses caused it to be relocated. The monarch of Roo Island, who of course is a Blumaroo called King Roo, offered a lovely site on the island as the Games Room's new home. He wasn't counting on an infestation of purple Petpetpets spoiling the party - but eventually the bugs were cleared away and the new Games Room has been a boon for Roo Island's economy. Of course, all games can be found in their home worlds, but there is only one place where all the games from all over Neopia can be found in just one building. Aristotle A. Avinroo, the Games Master, manages the new Games Room and regularly runs contests to test the gaming prowess of other Neopians.

At this late stage in the itinerary, you will already have encountered many of these games in their places of origin, but now is the time to enjoy them all again, and earn some Neopoints in the process. Whack the Kass plushie over the horizon in Kass Basher. Embark on a mad pursuit for Neggs and dodge the poisonous red ones in Meerca Chase. Roll across the rugged Meridell hills and gather berries in Turmac Roll. Leap for Doughnutfruits in Hasee Bounce; plough through coloured snow blocks in Snowmuncher; solve the ancient codes of Sutek's Tomb; burst the elemental spheres in Faerie Bubbles... the list goes on and on. If you were starting to run low on Neopoints after all your holiday expenses, today's gameplay will provide a healthy topping up of your money on hand. And let's not forget that there are a few games which can only be played here: Roodoku, Attack of the Gummy Dice, Dungeon Dash and Jolly Jugglers.

DAY 70 - Art District

At the very beginning of your journey, you ventured into the Deep Catacombs, Neopia Central's original art district. Like the Games Room, it was eventually displaced and moved to Roo Island after King Roo rebuilt the land. While some older art is still held in the Catacombs, the more modern masterpieces are displayed here.

Two kinds of artwork are showcased here: visual art and writing. The Art Gallery holds the former, and as well as newer works it also holds copies of older pieces. Many kinds of visual art can be found in the Gallery: some of the artists carve exquisite sculptures; others use old-fashioned pencils and paper; there are a number of marvellous paintings; but the majority of the artwork found here is digital, displayed on screens on the Gallery walls to bring out the best of its appeal. If you find yourself inspired by all those stunning drawings and paintings, then you can enjoy a few "How to Draw" lessons in an adjoining building: these tutorials will teach you the basics of creating your own masterpieces. There are Colouring Pages here too, so you can practise painting and shading. These activities are great fun, and a huge attraction for aspiring artists all over Roo Island.

Written works can be found in two different archives: the Storytelling Contest winners and the Poetry Awards are both held here. Unlike the Brightvale Library, which is mostly a repository for non-fiction books and scrolls, the writings here are overflowing with imagination and make for wondrous and riveting reading. (Certainly they're more interesting than a dull old tome about the chemical composition of plant-based potions, or the financial records of the National Neopian Bank.) As well as gripping stories and beautiful poems, the official Neopian Times archive is situated in this district - as well as some fascinating articles about Neopian history or famous characters, there are actual books here, composed of the chapters of long series, which include some of the finest written works in the whole of Neopia. To complete the experience, the Coffee Shop from the Deep Catacombs has opened a new branch here, so you can supplement your reading with an invigorating serve of Strongberry tea and a Tigersquash Swirly Cake.

DAY 71 - Roo City

The largest city on the island, Roo City is home to King Roo's castle and to the iconic dice games which are the hallmark of this land. No visit to Roo Island would be complete without meeting the fun-loving King and enjoying the official game of Roo Island: Dice-a-Roo.

The castle of King Roo is open to everyone, and decorated with bright colours and lovely sculptures. It no longer plays host to the game of Dice-a-Roo, which now has its own building not far from the castle entrance - but the castle is still worth entering and admiring. The exterior is simple stone painted white and pale blue, and the walls and floors are white marble; the castle is decorated with fabrics and furniture in cheery colours, and lots of potted plants - especially the Dice Plant, which is a native of the island. Once you've finished looking, head to the Dice-a-Roo Tournament Hall.

Dice-a-Roo has been around for as long as King Roo has governed the island. It is his favourite game, popular with all the locals, and it brings in tourists from all over Neopia. You begin by paying a fee of just five Neopoints, then roll the red die: the aim is to progress from red to blue, then green, yellow, and finally the silver die, which awards the jackpot. In the meantime, you can build up a pot of Neopoints, which you can end the game early by collecting (if you lose, your pot will be wiped out). If you progress far enough you can win items as well. The main appeal of the game is not Neopoints or prize items, since these aren't particularly valuable: it's the anticipation that accompanies each roll that makes Dice-a-Roo so much fun. The Blumaroll game, which is operated by the NC Mall, is also based here. And if you're a night owl and are awake in the hour following midnight, you are permitted to visit the lair of Roo Island's most infamous resident, the vampire Count Von Roo, to challenge him in his own game: Deadly Dice. Only the more daring tourists try their hand at this, since the Count is a very intimidating host. Roll higher than he does, and he'll strengthen you with a level boost; roll lower, and he'll weaken you. Visitors to the ancient black castle where Count Von Roo resides are strongly advised to cover their necks with a scarf before entering. If you don't want to take the risk, head back to the Hotel Opera.

DAY 72 - Shopping Precinct

It is now time to head back to the town of Blumaria to check out the local shops. There are very few shops on Roo Island because it is the games and activities that attract holidaymakers, but what would a vacation be without one or two souvenirs to take home?

Since the economy of Roo Island is driven almost entirely by tourism, naturally there is a dedicated souvenir shop. Most of the stock here is furniture, which is too large and heavy to carry around, but you can also buy the beautiful Potted Dice Plant here, as well as the Roo Island Mobile which is adorned with models of the coloured dice in Dice-a-Roo. If you're a fan of the Roodoku game, there is a mobile featuring coloured squares bearing the numbers 1 to 9. Oddly, there are no other main shops here apart from the recently opened Springy Things Shop. This store is a novelty in itself, because it sells spring toys and nothing else. The Springy Blue Blumaroo Toy is a great trinket to take home, to remind you of this shop and of Roo Island in general.

Unlike many other Neopian lands, there is no food store here that allows you to sample the local cuisine... in any case, there isn't much "local cuisine" because most of the food here is imported from Neopia Central. There is, however, a distinctive Roo Island dessert that you may wish to sample: Gummy Dice. These come in six different fruity flavours (if you discount Stone, which is barely edible) and are brought in daily from the Chocolate Factory. Otherwise, the best place to eat is the restaurant at the Hotel Opera. Before leaving the island, pay a visit to the famous Roo Island Merry-Go-Round: nothing puts a smile on the face quite like a cheery carnival ride, and this one has seats for adults as well as youngsters. For 50 NP you can hop aboard one of the Uni seats and enjoy the jolly music and the shouts and laughter of excited children - after a few minutes you're guaranteed to finish the ride happier than when you started. In the late afternoon, it's time to catch a ferry back to Neopia Central, where the launch pad to Kreludor awaits.

KRELUDOR

DAY 73 - Ride the Lunar Shuttle

A holiday in space, either on the Virtupets Space Station or on Kreludor, is very expensive but also extremely special. Before you set off, you should pop over to the Neopian Bank, store your souvenirs in your Safety Deposit Box and replenish your supply of Neopoints on hand; then make your way to the Launch Pad for the experience of a lifetime.

There are several different types of shuttle available for the commute to Kreludor. The Lightwave-AU models are extremely fast, taking just half an hour to complete the flight, but the tickets to ride them are prohibitively expensive to most Neopians. However, the VP Eclipse shuttles take a couple of hours to reach Neopia's moon, allowing more time to savour the weightless experience; the tickets are also cheaper at 10,000 NP per head, making the Eclipse ideal for holiday travel. Before boarding, it's essential to buy some Anti-Seasick Pills from the Neopian Pharmacy, since motion sickness frequently afflicts the travellers in space. Departures take place once per hour; when you're ready, take the elevator to the top of the tower and enter the spacecraft.

The VP Eclipse seats about 120. You'll be shown to your plush seat and strapped securely in; your bags will be placed in the cargo hold. Take-off is a thrilling experience as the engines roar and the force of acceleration presses you firmly into your seat, but eventually the pressure eases and so does the force of gravity. At this point you'll be allowed to leave your seat and float around the cabin: the sensation is bizarre and wondrous, but also very dizzying. The walls of the shuttle are equipped with rails so you can hold on if you like. Through the windows you'll be able to see the curvature of Neopia and its carpet of clouds, and distant stars which positively dazzle without the dampening of the atmosphere. Before landing, you'll have to return to your seat by climbing the rails, then strap yourself in and prepare for deceleration as the shuttle approaches Kreludor. Gravity here is only about a quarter of Neopia's, but even this feels relatively normal after two hours of weightlessness. Once you enter the AstroVilla where you will be staying, artificial gravity kicks in, and after a while you'll adjust to your normal weight.

DAY 74 - Walk to Purple City

The AstroVilla and the Shuttle Station are located at the end of Orange Central's Delta Wing. Normally it would be appropriate to tour the city before venturing to the outer reaches, but your first order of business on Kreludor is to become accustomed to the sensation of lunar gravity.

Orange Central is connected to Purple City by a wide and well-lit underground tunnel: an ideal place to get used to weighing only a quarter as much as you do on Neopia. Before setting off, pack some takeaway food from the AstroVilla in an airtight container, as well as your Anti-Seasick Pills (just in case). The air quality is lower on Kreludor due to a thinner atmosphere and airborne moon dust, but this is barely noticeable in comparison to the micro-gravity. Being feather-light makes you feel like you could jump a mile into the air, and normal steps are transformed into slow-motion leaps; just moving around takes a lot of getting used to. Once you get your bearings, try jumping off the walls for some action-hero fun - but try not to collide with others who are walking through the tunnel!

After an hour or so you will come to Purple City, the second-largest population centre on Kreludor, constructed inside a network of caves within a vast mountain. Not far away is the impact site of a sizeable meteor, code-named 725-XZ and guarded by a Grundo scientist. There are said to be treasures sealed inside the meteor, so pick up a stick from the wild Kreluberry bushes and give the meteor a sharp prod: out may come an alien plant, a creature with writhing tentacles, or... more space rocks. The Grundo scientist will only allow you to retrieve one object; the space rocks make the best souvenirs. In the centre of Purple City is a Neocola machine which mostly dispenses junk, and a statue of Commander Gormos which honours his mercy towards Gorix and Cylara, who thwarted Dr. Sloth's second attempt at Neopian domination. (This is not an accurate version of events, since Gormos only acted that way to punish Sloth for humiliating him with a servant's errand.) Purple City does not have an AstroVilla, so head back down the underground highway and return to the AstroVilla in Orange Central.

DAY 75 - Orange Central

Almost all of the Kreludan population (apart from the robots) are Grundos, and their capital city is Orange Central. This complex network of futuristic buildings and passageways is constructed from the metals found in moon rock, and powered by generators that run on Kreludite. Orange Central is the hub of activity on Kreludor, and a full tour is a must for any visitor.

By now, you will have had time to get used to lunar gravity, so shopping will be less of a hassle. Orange Central is entirely sealed from the lunar landscape outside; air filters keep the environment habitable for Neopets. The building is shaped like a giant (orange) snowflake with six main branches: from the hotel in the Delta Wing, head to the Alpha Wing to explore the main shops. Booktastic Books is worth a look; Bernard, who manages the store, hands out Booktastic Book Club memberships for free to all his customers, and awards points for each book you buy. There are dozens of volumes about moon rocks, distant stars, and how to program robots. Some of these books, especially the "push-button" ones, would be nice souvenirs.

Also in the Alpha Wing is Cafe Kreludor, the most popular restaurant in Orange Central which specialises in fruits and sweets. For a main course, the Moon Soup is highly recommended and best accompanied by a bottle of Fruity Star Juice; for dessert, you can't go past the Gooey Kreluberry Pie. If you feel like checking out the local fashions in furniture, you'll need to head over to the Epsilon Wing, where you'll be quite unsurprised to discover that almost all the items for sale are either made of moon rock or painted orange. (It seems the locals are very fond of consistency.) Only a few of the items here are small enough to take home; don't bother with the glow-in-the-dark stars and moons, though, since they don't stick to the walls of modern Neohomes. Fortunately, one item here makes an absolutely perfect souvenir: the iconic and handsome Orange Kreludan Flag.

DAY 76 - Tour the Kreludor Mine

The economy of Kreludor is driven almost entirely by mining. Kreludite, found here and nowhere else, possesses unique properties that make it an essential component of spaceship thrusters, power generators and (for Dr Sloth) giant mutation rays. Since you're here, you can't miss a tour of the mine.

The Kreludite mine is many miles away, but you can get there quickly by riding the hovercraft from Shuttle Station. When you arrive, you'll get a safety briefing to prepare you for the dangers: there are sentient fungi and dangerous robots in the mine's lower depths, not to mention the powerful radiation that issues from the Kreludite itself. For this reason, you have to wear a full-body safety suit before descending the mine shaft, and you must stay within sight of your tour guide. The Grundo guide will not take you to areas of the mine that are currently active; you will only get to see the tunnels and shafts that have been stripped of all the valuable ores. Despite this, a visit to the Kreludite mine is very rewarding.

You may have visited Moltara already, but the mining operation on Kreludor is totally different: it is futuristic and technical, with robots and supercomputers managing everything. The engineering is very impressive; some of the hardware resembles the older machinery found in Moltara, but most of the technology is new and cutting-edge. Low gravity makes it easier to keep the tunnels from collapsing, and to transport the Kreludite ore to the surface. Your guide will explain how the process works, and how it is all managed in order to achieve maximum efficiency and safety. The miners deploy robotic diggers and cargo vehicles (and, in emergencies, elite members of Section Six) to work in dangerous parts of the mine. Sadly, you won't get to see the alien life that dwells here: the sentient space fungi are subterranean relatives of the Giant Space Fungus whose spores can stick to anything (including you) and cause a lethal case of Fuzzy Fungus; it's not safe to get too close, even with a safety suit on. When the tour is over, take the hovercraft back to the Shuttle Station and board the VP Eclipse shuttle to the Virtupets Space Station.

VIRTUPETS SPACE STATION

DAY 77 - Recreation Deck

After another couple of hours of weightlessness aboard the VP Eclipse, you'll arrive in the Hangar on the Space Station's lowest deck. Having once played host to Dr Sloth's experiments and his hundreds of scientists, Virtupets' former base is like an enormous city floating in space, bustling with activity and packed to the brim with tourist attractions.

The Virtupets Space Station has artificial gravity constantly active on every deck, to keep your weight at a normal Neopian level. The architecture here is not unlike that on Kreludor: walls, floors and tunnels made of Ultrasteel, exposed pipes and hydraulic lines (for easy access and servicing by maintenance personnel), fluorescent lighting along the edges of ceilings, and lines on the floor marking the routes that must be taken by service robots. On the topmost level, called the Recreation Deck, you will find the Virtupets AstroVilla as well as the stellar restaurant, Grundos Cafe. Here, you can enjoy all kinds of meals that are staples in space, but the food here is very different to that on Kreludor. Nothing grows on the Space Station, so everything you buy here is imported - and much of it is freeze-dried, reconstituted, or served in a tube. The local favourite is a serving of Garthroxian Goo, which is like a very thick and tangy smoothie; other excellent dishes include Savoury Grundo Veggieballs with galactic space punch, and Scrambled Eggplant for breakfast. The desserts are best though, including the Iceberg Sundae and the delicious Intergalactic Orange Sorbet - yum! (Not everything on the menu is good to eat, though - whatever you do, DON'T try the Mutox Syrup.)

There are, naturally, games up here too. In the arcade area, you can test your reaction time in Splat-a-Sloth or your dexterity in Zurroball, or enjoy classics such as Nova Defender, Frumball, or Advert Attack. Spell-or-Starve is best played over the digital communication system though, since it involves Neopet V2 who will imprison any unwary visitors who venture into the corridors and chambers under its control. Neopet V2 says it's lonely and just wants a friend... but with a friend like that, you'd never need an enemy!

DAY 78 - Gormball Stadium

Gormball is the official sport of the Virtupets Space Station, and it has taken Neopia by storm, with Neopets from every land (except Maraqua) enjoying friendly games in their local parks and fields. But this is where the championships are held: in the Gormball Stadium on the Space Station's recreation level.

The same eight finalists seem to make it every year. Three of them are extraneopian: Zargrold, the cool Grundo from Kreludor; Gargarox Isafuhlarg, who is also the chef at Grundos Cafe; and the champion of the Alien Aishas, Farvin III. The other five come from different Neopian lands: Thyassa the Chia, from Neopia Central; Ursula the Usul, from Roo Island; Kevin the Korbat, from the Haunted Woods; Brian the Scorchio, from Tyrannia; and Ember, the fire faerie from Faerieland, who is also the only faerie known to live in space except Mira. All eight of them have claimed at least one championship - Kevin's sole win came as a result of achieving second place against Brian, who was disqualified for rigging the ball; but Brian has also pulled off a win without cheating. Thyassa is currently ranked as the number one Gormball player in the galaxy, and has won the annual championship four times.

The game itself is simple enough: the Gormball is manufactured with a salt shell of varying thickness, then filled with water before the contest begins. The shell slowly dissolves in the water until it ruptures, thoroughly soaking whoever is holding the ball at the time. Contestants stand in a circle and throw the ball to each other until it bursts, but it takes careful judgement to ensure that someone else is holding the ball when the shell fails: if you get wet, you're out of the game. Taking risks is necessary though, because you get points for being in possession of the ball (as long as it doesn't explode). The outer skin of the ball does not always take the same amount of time to dissolve, so there's an element of luck involved. When the Gormball bursts, whoever was holding it is eliminated and a new ball comes into play, until there's only one player left - the last one standing is the winner!

DAY 79 - Supply Deck Shopping Mall

Previously only for storage of weaponry and robots, the Supply Deck has transformed into a series of shopping outlets as the Grundos sell the machinery that was once used by Dr Sloth's army. Here you can buy all kinds of high-tech gadgetry - there's no better place to find a Space Station souvenir.

The Space Weapon Store, run by Grundos who were freed from mind control when Dr Sloth was defeated, is a treasure trove of ray guns and laser blasters. They look fantastic - compact, intricately detailed, stylish masterpieces of technology - but they don't generally make good items to take home, since they can put an eye out! You can, in theory, render them safe by disabling their power mechanisms; but you'd need considerable expertise, or help from a Grundo scientist, to do so. It's a better idea by far to choose a souvenir from the Space Armour store, whose wares are built to reduce damage rather than mete it out. The shielding units here have the benefit of distinctive styling without the risk of accidental laser fire: some of them, such as the Utility Backpack and especially the Transporter Helmet, are considered essential for travelling and working in space and would make great reminders of your holiday here.

The droids that Dr Sloth had built to keep the Space Station running neatly and efficiently serve equally well in keeping Neohomes organised, and are extremely popular as Petpets. But not all the creatures at the Space Petpet outlet are robots, and of course you can't take home an organic one because it has no standby mode. The Navibot, Stopngo 400 and Screwtop are steady sellers because they are very useful; Cybits are popular solely for their cuteness. All the droids sold here have artificial intelligence that incorporates virtual emotions, but they have no real body language and don't speak at all, so it's all too easy to forget that these creatures really do think and feel: if you choose to take one home, treat it with love. (Remember to admire the organic life-forms too, while you're here.) Other features of the Supply Deck include the Grundo Warehouse and Grundo Adoption Agency, neither of which are relevant to holidaymakers.

DAY 80 - Tour the Hangar

This is the last day of the itinerary - your journey across the lands of Neopia is almost complete. Before leaving the Virtupets Space Station and going back to your own home, you can't miss the chance to wander around the Virtupets Hangar and learn about the fascinating technology of shuttles and rockets!

As you have already learned during your tour of the Kreludite mine, the main generators of all these spacecraft are powered by Kreludite-232, which is stored in the power core. Kreludite-232 gives off strong radiation, which is converted by the engines into thrust; the power core is heavily reinforced to protect passengers from the radiation. The energy from the generators also powers a Transparishield layer around the vessel which maintains air pressure inside, and a dust filter and CO2 filter to keep the air clean - not to mention the complex computer systems and controls that allow the pilot to operate the vehicle.

There are many different kinds of spacecraft here: not only the Lightwave-AU and VP Eclipse shuttles used for commuting, but a vast array of battle vehicles. The SpaceJet Fighter is an earlier model, equipped with broad wings that keep it stable when flying through a planet's atmosphere; it is used by members of the Resistance to combat Sloth's battleships during invasions. The Vortex XC3 has a different wing shape, designed to create turbulence and allow maximum agility when flying through nebula clouds: this model is used for galactic dogfights, and stars in the Neverending Boss Battle game along with the Battlecruiser, Dr Sloth's personal interstellar runabout which is now abandoned in the Hangar. The Apogee 6, a two-seater craft manned by Gorix and Cylara on their mission to trap Dr Sloth inside the Space Faerie's token, is also here, as well as the Space Station's escape pods. You won't be able to actually enter the spacecraft during the tour, but the Grundo engineers will show you the interior of each vehicle by displaying holograms of the cockpit and cabin. You will only get to board the VP Eclipse after the tour is over, for one last weightless experience on the way back to Neopia Central.

JELLY WORLD

LOCATION UNKNOWN. (May not actually exist.)

***

At last, your journey is complete! After visiting every location in Neopia that is known so far, you can now only wait for an exciting new land to be discovered. For the moment though, after nearly three months journeying across Neopia, it is time to return to your own comfortable home, where hopefully your Petpets haven't caused too much damage in your absence. Having seen the sights, you will surely agree that Neopia is an amazing and wonderful place!

(Apologies to Jules Vandagyre for the title of this itinerary.)

 
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