Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Four
Also by schefflera
The rest of the ride passed without much incident, and
the group soon found itself in Neopia Central, which seemed to be completely
stuffed with both shops and people. Besides the Explore Map Teleporter, which
would lead directly to the center of the Haunted Woods, there were several other
spots of interest to Jeran.
"Before we leave for the Haunted Woods, there
are a few stops we should make," he explained.
"Such as...?" Kass asked, wondering where the
Lupe might need to stop.
"Well, there is a hospital here... I was thinking
of asking about Lisha's condition," Jeran explained, "and seeing as it's getting
late, it might be best if we stopped for something to eat, too -- save the basket
for later. There's a nice little coffee shop in the Deep Catacombs; we could
probably find something to eat without much of a problem."
"How do you know all this?" Kass asked, curious.
Jeran eyed the Eyrie for a moment, then shrugged
and said, "I used to live here." He gestured back toward the inlet. Kass followed
the motion and realized that it really did look narrower from this side; he
could see across, but the port didn't seem to be in its place on the other side.
"You weren't born in Meridell, Sir Jeran?" Sally
asked, scurrying beside them.
He looked down and gave her a quick smile. "No.
But I came across when I was a child."
"Did you come in a boat, like we did now?" the
"No... but travel between Meridell and Neopia
Central was... different... then," Jeran replied. "My arrival in the Meridell,
you know, was a happy accident -- I stumbled over the Timegate in the ruins
of a castle, just across that river, and found myself in the Meridell we know
now. Even Lisha was unable to follow me until later. It seems that when she
did come, however, her wand opened the Timegate for all. Now, anyone can come
and visit and leave Meridell as they wish."
"Ruins of a castle?" Sally sounded rather shocked.
"Well, we were a few centuries apart then. Buildings
can fall down, over time." But the look Jeran gave Kass didn't suggest that
he thought the collapse had been natural. "Anyhow, the hospital is this way...."
After making their way through busy streets,
they reached a white building with a gray roof that looked more like a house
than a hospital. There was only a short wait before a slender green Gelert in
a white coat and glasses trotted up to them and looked all four of them over
before frowning. "I congratulate you all on your good health," she said. "So
why are you here?"
"My sister isn't feeling well," Jeran explained.
"And no one in Meridell could find a cure."
"I'm sorry, but I don't think I could help,"
the Gelert answered. "It is rather difficult to make a diagnosis when the patient
in question is not here."
"What if I tell you what her symptoms are?" Jeran
asked, nearly pleading.
"Many diseases have similar symptoms, sir."
"So, you can't do anything?"
"Not unless you can bring your sister here."
"We weren't sure if she should travel," Jeran
explained. "Hubrid Nox cursed her, and claimed it was a new disease--"
"I'm sorry," the Gelert said firmly, "but you'll
really have to bring her here if you want a diagnosis. I'll make a note that
there's a new disease to watch out for, but without examples there will be no
way to synthesize a cure, and thus no way for me to prescribe it. Perhaps you
should try the Healing Springs. Now, if you'll excuse me, we're really very
Jeran left the hospital with the others, disheartened
by the turn of events.
"Why couldn't she at least try to help?" Jeran
asked snappily. "She wouldn't even listen to me."
"I'm sure she had other patients to see," the
Yellow Knight replied. "She probably couldn't have helped even if Lisha was
there -- we tried giving her the cures for all of the existing diseases with
similar symptoms. And if it was a new disease, she couldn't just prescribe something."
"That doesn't make it any more right," Jeran
"No, it doesn't, but there isn't much we can
do about it now. Besides, it's getting late. If we want to eat before we leave,
we should find some place soon."
Jeran, still grumpy, made an abrupt right turn
at the next intersection and left the other three scrambling slightly to catch
up. On the way past the Rainbow Pool, he sighed and looked around to the Yellow
Knight and Sally (and very briefly at Kass). "I'm sorry. There's no need to
take it out on you." A pause. "I suppose you're right. She couldn't do anything
without Lisha there. The Haunted Woods are still our best bet."
Kass refrained from answering; it seemed unlikely
to help. But the Yellow Knight clapped the Lupe on the back, and Sally offered
a shy smile, and the mood was at least a little lighter by the time they reached
a simple stone archway and started downward into the coolness of the Catacombs.
The Catacombs, the artistic center of Neopia
Central, tended to be the quietest part of the city -- just perfect for a group
like Jeran's -- and the coffee shop there was the best place around if one did
not wish to wait in long lines for take-out. The service there was good, too,
and all four of them found themselves with coffee and pastry not long after
ordering and paying for their food.
"You were right, this is a nice little place,"
Kass said. "And we haven't come across any unforeseen delays, either."
"It's usually quite quiet in the Catacombs, except
when... what day is it? I've lost track." Jeran looked suddenly alarmed.
"What day? Does that matter?" the Yellow Knight
said, wondering why Jeran could be asking such a question. After looking around,
he pointed across the counter to a calendar. "It seems to be Friday here."
"That might be a problem," Jeran said. "We should
finish up quickly, and then leave..."
"But why?" Sally asked. "Why does it matter that
Just then, a voice outside the window cried out,
"The New Neopian Times has just been released!" Through the window, Jeran and
the others noticed a blond man, followed by four Asparagus Chias and a Red Bori,
escaping from the growing crowd after announcing the release.
"That's why," Jeran said.
Kass looked at him blankly. "The newspaper?"
"Yes," said Jeran, teeth clenching. "Now move!"
He finished his coffee in one swallow and stood, but it was already too late.
There was a squeal from the doorway.
"It's Jeran!" The human girl in the doorway turned
to beckon frantically before sprinting into the Coffee Shop, trailing two enthusiastic
Neopets and one who looked faintly embarrassed.
She was followed by half a dozen like-minded
people before someone else peered in and asked of no one in particular, "Is
that Lord Kass?"
"I think so," said a Darigan Eyrie next to her,
"but he's not wearing the coat." She sounded vaguely disapproving.
"I don't care!" said another human, diving into
the crowd in Kass's direction and pulling another cheering section in her wake.
"This is great -- maybe it's a special feature? Wow."
Yet another, a short brunette, made a beeline
for Sally. "Aren't you cute!"
Sally, much alarmed by the attention, bit her.
Jeran somehow managed to loose himself from the
crowd, get himself over to Sally, and take hold of her hand. "I'm sorry about
that," he said to the brunette. "Now, Sally, keep close -- we'll have to get
out of here quickly if we're to have any chance."
Kass, on the other hand, was completely overwhelmed
by his fans. Not only were they unexpected, but many of them had sharp claws
and other pointy objects that made escape rather perilous. Fortunately for him,
the Yellow Knight had mostly escaped the fangirls' notice, and was able to help
Kass extricate himself without too much damage being done on either side.
Making their way out of the coffee shop looked
to be tricky; however, the owner took pity on them (or just decided that it
would be in the best interest of her shop) and let them out the back door.
This got them outdoors, but not entirely off
the hook; they caused a severe traffic jam on the way up the stairs, as a horde
of delighted fans pursuing Jeran and Kass met a horde of delighted fans on their
way to read the new issue of the Neopian Times. The little group of four kept
their heads, mostly, and managed to forge a path up the stairs and out into
the open -- which presented its own problems. Kass seriously considered taking
to the air, but decided it would probably count against the performance of his
duties, most likely without actually doing him any good.
They did not exactly run away, but they did walk
very briskly. The fans were gaining on them up until they spotted the blond
man with five Neopets in a side street.
"Bow," Jeran muttered to all of them, "and then
walk past him and turn left at the first chance."
Kass shot him a baffled look, but obeyed, and
the four managed to dodge around the second corner just as the crowd came around
the first and eddied around the blond man in awe.
"Who were those lunatics?" Kass asked eventually,
as they left the bazaar and headed into the market area for smaller shops.
"Fans," Jeran said dryly.
"Why do I have them?"
"You're asking the wrong person." Jeran looked
over at him. "Why do you have pastry crumbs in your feathers?"
Kass brushed the crumbs off distractedly. "I
didn't have much time to finish back at the coffee shop," he said, "and I got
caught in the rush. But where are we going? I thought the Teleporter was on
the other side of Neopia Central..."
"It is," Jeran admitted. "But we can't go there
now, anyway. There's far too many people, and a good deal of them are just like
the ones we just escaped from. Our best chance to escape the crowd is to go
to the Marketplace. There's enough people there so we wouldn't stand out, but
most of them are more intent on their purchases than looking for celebrities.
I know a shortcut that will avoid the crowds -- follow me." And with that, the
Lupe led his party into the woods.
A shortcut, of course, is always the longest
distance between two points. On the other hand, Jeran was right about escaping
the crowds -- they appeared to be the only ones using the path through the trees.
This was rather disconcerting, but soon enough they found themselves in the
Marketplace, near the lower ranked shops.
While the Marketplace was filled with people,
Kass was pleased to find that no one seemed to recognize him.
"We should be safe enough here, until the Teleporter
clears up," Jeran explained.
"You know," Kass said, "these fans seem to be
just like the tourists we keep finding in the Citadel...."
"Most tourists are from Neopia Central," Jeran
replied. "And they seem to enjoy nothing more than coming in, playing games,
asking for autographs, and making fun of our food."
"They make fun of your food?" They paused to
let people cross the path in front of them; Kass turned to inspect the nearest
shop, a small one where the items on display included Dirt Pie, a Bitten Green
Apple, Dung Cookies, and a Wriggling Grub. "...Why?"
"They seem to think a lot of it is either dull
or dangerous," Jeran said, sounding vaguely irritable, then seemed to notice
Kass's distraction for the first time and looked over the Eyrie's shoulder.
He blinked, then stepped away from the shop, mouth twitching just a little.
"And that menu reminds me why I think that's ridiculous. Though I'll grant it's
a particularly bad selection."
"They buy the strangest things," the Yellow Knight
said. "That's all. I don't think anybody's so much as tried passing off a Bucket
of Slops to a Darigan, even at the nastier moments -- have they?" he interrupted
himself, addressing Kass.
Kass looked at him blankly. "A what?"
"There, you see? Anyhow, the main tourist shop
sells pails of Snorkle slop ever since somebody mistook one for part of the
Jeran shook his head in exasperation. "There's
no need to perpetuate that kind of assumption...."
The Yellow Knight shrugged and patted Jeran's
back. "You're too dignified sometimes. Anyhow, it's not as if they couldn't
figure out we're helping supply the Health Food Shop. Something about not using
so many potions on the crops. Organics. Say, Jeran, where is that anyway?"
"The Health Food Shop? We passed behind it earlier.
You said it looked like a giant broccoli."
"And so it did. You know, I should suggest that
to Lord Darigan."
Kass stared at the Chia, wondering how Vex managed
to keep up with this chatter. He had to have missed something. "...I hope you
don't mean looking like a giant broccoli."
The Yellow Knight laughed. "No, no, I mean coming
up with something to entertain the tourists, that they'd pay for. Besides clockwork
toys. Guided tours, perhaps? That would have the added benefit of helping you
keep track of them."
"That certainly would be helpful," Kass said.
"It's astonishing how many times they've turned up in Lord Darigan's personal
chambers, and at the most inopportune moments, too. They don't even think to
Before long, even the bustling Marketplace began
to empty, as darkness fell on Neopia Central. "The crowds around the Teleporter
should have died down a bit, so we should be able to make it to the Haunted
Woods without much difficulty," Jeran explained. "Though we will arrive in the
Haunted Woods quite a bit later than I had foreseen."
The party found the Teleporter just as Jeran
had predicted -- while there were still a few people using it, they did not
have to wait too long for the Explore Map Teleporter to open up.
"If you wish to be taken to the Haunted Woods,"
a voice said from nowhere in particular, "stand on the Haunted Woods on the
map. If you wish to be taken to Faerieland..." it continued, listing off the
rest of the worlds. Once it finished, it said, "Thank you for using the Faerie
Teleporter in Neopia Central. We hope you have a great trip, and that we will
see you again soon!" And with that, the entire map lit up with faerie magic,
and the four found themselves just outside the center of the Haunted Woods.
To be continued...