It Sooted Me
Do you know what I hate?
There was a time when I didn’t hate wind. A time when I didn’t care one way or another about this weather condition. Now though, I truly do hate it. It’s loud, harsh, persistent. It’s invisible so I rarely know it’s coming and I live in Shenkuu so there is no escaping it.
I am completely helpless before its power.
It all started five months ago when my owner, Da, began going to the lab ray. He had been born a yellow Eyrie and his dream was to become stealthy. Unfortunately, the Stealth Paint Brush was out of our budget so we had to look to a less expensive alternative. I went right along with him to the Petpet lab ray so I could also become stealthy. I was a Miamouse so I fully expected to become a completely different species.
For Da, it was mostly stat changes in the beginning. I remember how we exulted when he got his first color change. It was only to checkered but it was a step in the right direction. Over a span of three months he became in no particular order woodland, a chocolate Blumaroo, ghost, a durian Chia. Three months in and Da achieved his dream.
I went from being a Miamouse to being a Pile of Soot.
My first day!
I no longer had fur or large ears or anything, except eyes. I didn’t know what to think. Neither did Da.
The Kookith at the Petpet lab ray was old hat at the predicament we found ourselves in. He handed Da a dustpan and brush. It was humiliating to be swept up like that but that’s what I was: a pile. Now the question was how to get home. Da had simply flown us to the lab ray.
This is when I began to hate the wind. I couldn’t fly. Careful as Da was, I could feel small invisible puffs of wind carrying particles of me away. I was terrified that I wouldn’t make it home but would just disappear bit by bit until there was nothing left. This was not the way I imagined my life would end.
There was a regular boat service to the island so we had to go home that way. Neither of us had been in so much as a rowboat so it was quite a new experience. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant one. Da was seasick the entire time and there was nothing I could do to even ease his suffering. He was only there because of me.
We finally docked in Altador, the nearest port to Shenkuu. Da stumbled down the gangplank and there was a heart-stopping moment when my soot sailed through the air. My owner let out a startled croak-his throat raw from his seasickness-and I heard him suddenly barging down the gangplank, ignoring the irritation of the other disembarking passengers. Somehow, he caught most of me in the dustpan. Part of me had actually fallen into the sea below us and I couldn’t believe that that had happened to me.
“Huang, I’m so sorry! You shouldn’t have to go through this. You will get back to an actual body,” Da said.
I wanted to tell my owner that it was not his fault. I had agreed to being zapped. I had known the risks (foolishly believing that they wouldn’t happen to me). I wanted to tell him these things but I couldn’t. This is when I learned how very expressive eyes could be.
Da looked down at me in the dustpan and he seemed to understand. We managed to get a ride out of Altador, then through the Altadorian countryside. Then it was the long walk home through the mountain pass. This was something we had never done before. These mountains were notorious for many reasons.
The paths were long and winding, making it easy to get lost. Snow was almost always present, even in high summer. Storms were common. Then, there was the biggest threat: bandits. There was a reason Neopets traveled in caravans through these mountains.
Da and I were alone.
The snow was deep and Da had difficulty keeping me in the dustpan as he high-stepped through it. The wind was especially fierce and Da had to hunch over to block me from the worst of it. Needless to say, progress was slow. Things got worse from there. It fell dark far too quickly.
As an Eyrie, my owner had no difficulty seeing in the dark. With an almost full moon reflecting off the white snow visibility was good.
“I would look for shelter for the night but we then stand the risk of getting lost, Huang,” Da said to me as he continued on.
I understood but I was concerned about Da. I did not want him to wear himself out. The night was quiet so that was something. I was starting to get spooked. After all, this could only be the calm before the storm (hopefully not literally).
I don’t know how long Da walked when we both noticed a movement off to our right. My owner froze in his tracks (pun intended). There was nowhere to run. Da braced himself and then relaxed. A faerie Grarrl was coming towards us.
This was no bandit!
This was a ‘pet to be trusted. The faerie Grarrl looked us over with calm green eyes. Then, she dipped her head to us in greeting.
“My name is Prisca. May I ask your names and where you are traveling?” Prisca’s voice was deep, warm, comforting.
“My name is Da and this is my Petpet, Huang. We are going home to Shenkuu and have traveled a very long way,” Da said.
“So, you should have shelter and rest. Will you allow me to take you where you can rest comfortably for the night?”
Da, rapidly weakening, could only nod his head in response. Prisca placed one hand on my owner’s elbow in order to guide him. She led him into the trees and into a cave. Prisca made a fire and brought a thick blanket and soft pillow for Da. My owner settled next to the fire and settled into a deep sleep.
We awoke refreshed the next morning. Prisca fed Da oatmeal and toast which he ate hungrily. As a Pile of Soot, I had no nutritional needs to fulfill.
“Do you know the way to Shenkuu from here, Da?” Prisca asked.
Da shook his head. “No, no, I don’t. I usually fly over the mountains but yesterday, Huang got zapped into a Pile of Soot on her first day at the Petpet lab ray. Flying back home was out of the question.”
“Will you permit me to guide you? Shenkuu is close. We would arrive before lunchtime.”
“Yes, please. That would be wonderful.”
Prisca led us home and immediately, Da got to work on getting me a proper traveling receptacle. My owner is an absolute genius. He bought a Serene Nightscape Snowglobe and placed me inside it. I was completely safe from the wind now. My life as a Pile of Soot really began then.
Only able to use my eyes, one would think I would be bored out of my mind living inside a snowglobe. However, I have an incredible relationship with my owner. Inconvenient as it was for him, he took me everywhere he went. He also talked to me all the time. I appreciated his efforts.
Things really got interesting when Da was zapped into a chocolate Blumaroo. Now, Da as an Eyrie, no matter his color, was more reserved and kept to himself. He wasn’t unfriendly but he did not go out of his way to make friends, either. When he became a Blumaroo, he completely turned around. My owner had become Mr. Personality.
All of a sudden, we went out every day, all day. Da would introduce himself to everyone we passed and engage them in conversation. Her bounced gaily along and soon became quite popular. He laughed easily and was considered the life of the party. While he got along with everyone, he became quite enamored of children.
Wherever Da went, children were soon to gather. Our lives were crowded now. I was uncertain of this change. For so long, it had just been Da and me. Though, I told myself that if Da was happy, then so was I; my adjustment to our new life would just take some time.
I was wondering how long Da would remain a chocolate Blumaroo. He had not reached his goal of becoming a stealthy Eyrie Had he forgotten, with all the fun he was having? It was then that we got into trouble. Thus far, Da had not had any issues with being edible.
Then, the starry Skeith showed up.
The Skeith, as the species goes, was large. Da couldn’t even compare as a Blumaroo. The Skeith charged us, taking us completely by surprise. The Skeith’s intent was clear: to eat Da (and me along with him!). I was scared out of my wits; even if I had feet, I would have been rooted to the spot.
What did Da do?
My owner bounced lightly on his Blumaroo tail and laughed in the Skeith’s face! Infuriated, the Skeith intensified his attack, trying to grab Da. He easily bounced out of reach. Becoming cocky, Da taunted the Skeith, drawing him close and waiting for the last moment to jump out of harm’s way. This went on for a few moments, until suddenly, my owner wasn’t fast enough.
Sensing triumph, the starry Skeith hurled one huge fist through the air, straight for Da’s face. My owner squeaked in alarm and instinctively raised his arms to defend himself. He forgot this meant lifting me along with them. As a result, I saw the Skeith’s fist slam hard into my snowglobe, cracking the glass. The Skeith howled with pain, holding his fist with his other hand and stumbled away.
Da’s red eyes were round with horror. “Huang, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking! I should never have done that to you.”
My eyes showed my indignation.
Da sighed. “I’ll get you a new snowglobe and an Eyrie Morphing Potion.”
Our next adventure occurred when Da was zapped ghost. It took him an hour to figure out how to hold me. His hand kept passing through my snowglobe. Each time sent a shiver through me. I seemed to connect with him on a deeper level and knew exactly what he was thinking and feeling.
Even when my owner managed to lift me, he kept losing his solidity. Sometimes a foot, or arm, a wing or his beak would just pass right through objects. This was difficult enough. Then, we came upon a new problem. It started when we arrived home in Shenkuu.
When we were out in public, we would get uneasy looks. Some would let out screams of fear and run for their lives. Completely, understandable reactions, given Da’s color. Though, just because they were understandable did not make them welcome. Places would clear out when Da entered’ ‘pets would make detours in order to avoid him.
I hated the way Da was being treated. Especially since, only a month before, he had been Mr. Personality. This sudden rejection led to our third problem. We were at home, Da talking animatedly to me when suddenly, he vanished! I was astonished and couldn’t believe that such a thing had happened.
Over the next week, I would hear snatches of conversation.
“Then I was telling…”
“That was when the Skeith…”
Sometimes, I would see a flicker of movement or a brief view of my owner but faded so that I could actually see through him. It took a week before Da reappeared fully and stayed. We were both shaken by this experience. We just had to wait it out. The lab came through with a zap into durian Chia (fixed soon with an Eyrie Morphing Potion).
Finally, Da became a stealthy Eyrie.
I remained a Pile of Soot.
Da set me down on a table before taking a seat in front of me. He studied me for a moment with his bright blue eyes. His gaze was intense and it unsettled me. Sensing this, my owner smiled, softening his features. I relaxed as he began to speak.
“Huang, you are the truest of friends. Through my every species and color change, you have been there…Not that you were given much choice in the matter. I have come to understand the difficulties that such changes present. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not even have any of that.”
“You deserve more than this half-life you are living. I’m going to unattach you, which means you will once more become a Miamouse. Then, I will paint you stealthy, just like me. That is why you agreed to be zapped in the first place, right?”
I was exhilarated by my owner’s words. It was indescribable to become a Miamouse once more. Then, I was painted stealthy, just like Da. It was what I had always wanted. My dream had finally come true!