Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,767 Issue: 266 | 17th day of Storing, Y8
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Adventures in Brightvale: Book I - Part One


by newenglandquizzer

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Meadowbuck walked quickly down the gravel path to the Brightvale University. It was his first day of school there, and he was already late. He had two bags over his shoulder: one held his notebooks, pencils, and other school supplies, and the other his Liobits.

      "Starmane, that is the very last time I let you get out and wander through the fields. You could have been trampled by those Moehogs! You are lucky to still be in one piece. One thing I didn't bring is tape and glue; how could I fix you? I don't even think that I can buy stuff like that around here. I would have to have Quizzer send it by Beekadoodle, and you know how fussy she is about using expensive postal services like that. And now, after all the explaining I had to do to those farmers, we are late. Very late. What do you have to say for yourself?" Starmane remained silent, but pulled out a little pad of paper and stub of pencil and began scribbling something. When he was finished, he handed the note down to his owner.

      Meadowbuck read it. It had the word 'sOrRie' laboriously scrawled on it. The yellow Gelert sighed. "Well, you had better be sorry." He had taught his Liobits to write in Neopian some time ago, but his spelling and capitalization needed work, and Meadowbuck hadn't even bothered to explain punctuation yet. "Well, it's the first day of school, anyway. Maybe the teachers won't be so hard on me. I really should have taken Auntie Keana's advice and left yesterday. As it is, I don't know if I'll have enough time to drop you off at the dormitory before I head for period one. They won't be too happy about a petpet in the classroom, but maybe if you lie low in the carrier and keep quiet they won't notice." A raucous clanging echoed over the hills. "Oh no- the school bell! Hang on, Starmane!" Meadowbuck took off at a dead run.

 

      "All right class, let us begin," said a studious blue Wocky in a starched brown jacket. He peered at the class through spectacles perched on the end of his nose. "Now, the first thing you will do is copy the Rules into the first page of all of your notebooks. I will write them here on the chalkboard for you to see. Number one," he droned, drawing a stick of chalk from his pocket with a flourish. "Obey the teachers in everything. Number two," he scribbled out the first rule on the black board and began the second. "There shall be no rude or loud talk or noises. Number three. Petpets are completely forbidden and shall not be brought to class or anywhere else in the university building except the dormitories. Number four. There shall be absolutely no disturbances of any kind..."

      Meadowbuck came bursting through the door, dragging his bags behind him. "Good morning, sir, I am sorry I'm late. You see, Starmane had a little run-in with some Moe-"

      "Master Meadowbuck!" thundered the Wocky. "You will take your place with the other students. You are tardy, and that breaks the fifth rule: In all things be punctual! Now sit down!"

      Meadowbuck swallowed and hurried to his seat. To his dismay, he found that he had been put between a Grarrl and a Skeith, the only species in Neopia he was afraid of. The Grarrl sat in front of him, effectively blocking his view of the blackboard with his broad red back, and the Skeith seemed to delight in snorting and snuffling down the back of Meadowbuck's neck. On the Gelert's left was a young Blumaroo, apparently from a rich family judging by his fancy stationary and spotted coat. On his other side was a Bori the same color as himself. She smiled sympathetically at him as he took out his paper and a pencil. She slipped him a paw-written copy of the Rules for him to use instead of looking at the board. He grinned back at her and fell to work, neatly writing out his assignment on the front page of each of his notebooks. As he was starting on his third, he felt something nudging his leg. He glanced casually down to find Starmane sticking one paw out of his bag, holding his note pad. Squinting, Meadowbuck could just make out 'crooL woKKy' written on it. He took a matching notebook from his desk and hastily wrote 'No passing notes: Rule 8. P.S. I don't like him either' and handed it down to his petpet. 'VerrY well shood I go ant pul hiZ tale' was the reply. Meadowbuck bit his lip to keep from laughing.

      "Meadowbuck!" the teacher bellowed. "Are you applying yourself?"

      Meadowbuck sobered. "Yes, sir." He was horrified when the Wocky stepped away from his desk and began walking down the aisle to his seat. Starmane yanked his paw back into the bag, but not quick enough. The Wocky darted at him and snatched up the bag, upending it on Meadowbuck's papers. The Liobits and a pile of notes fluttered out.

      "Aha!" the teacher exclaimed. "I knew it. You have broken both rules three and eight. And what's this?" he looked at the set of Rules that the Bori had passed to him. "Cheating! That's breaking rule six, too. Every year I have a problem student, and it seems I have found this one's sooner than I expected. You are staying after class, young Neopet, and you will recite the Rules to me in order until I find that you have them memorized. You petpet will be taken away until further notice, also. And who wrote these notes?"

      "I did." The Bori stood up. "And I gave him the copy of the Rules, too, because he couldn't see the blackboard. It's not his fault that he can't see over Rasival's head. He's a new student; it's his first day here. If you punish Meadowbuck, you have to punish me, too."

      The Wocky looked as though he was ready to burst a blood vessel. "I will, Miss Oakridge, I can assure you, I will." Grasping both students by the paw, he hauled them to the front of the room and plunked them in a seat together. "Class," he said, turning to the others. "These two are this year's problem students. Treat them with relative respect but do not hesitate to report them if you see them breaking the rules." He tossed two clipboards to the disciplined Neopets and then settled back to the routine. "We will now turn to geography. Today you are each going to make a map of the major features of Brightvale. I want mountains, rivers, large buildings and businesses and other landmarks incorporated into it. Begin."

      They did this until lunchtime, working partly from memory and partly from the descriptions in the geography textbooks. However, Meadowbuck and his companion 'problem student' had to stay behind and recite the Rules until the teacher was satisfied. The young Bori was able to recite them perfectly on the first try, and Meadowbuck took only a very few attempts before he could list them well enough for the their professor.

      At length, he said, "That will do. You may go now."

      Meadowbuck reached for Starmane and his bag, but the Wocky rapped his paw sharply with a ruler. "Master Meadowbuck, you are not permitted to have your petpet back until I feel that you have merited it. It will stay here until you can earn it back."

      The Gelert blanched. "Oh, please sure, don't take Starmane away. He has been with me since I was born. I'll do anything..."

      "You will leave it here." The answer was not one to be appealed. "You may go."

      Oakridge pulled him out the door and into the hallway. Stopping only long enough to grab her lunchbox, she dragged him out a side door and into a garden, where she sat down on a stone bench and motioned for him to do the same.

      "I can't believe it. I have never been without Starmane. I've had him my whole life." Meadowbuck fought back tears. He swallowed and looked up at his new friend. "You didn't have to do all that for me," he whispered.

      The Bori shook her head. "Yes, I did. All of that was partly my fault, and I couldn't let you take all of the blame." She frowned. "Who did pass those notes?"

      Meadowbuck sniffed. "Starmane."

      "Your petpet?" she asked incredulously.

      Meadowbuck smiled fondly and nodded. "Yeah. I taught him how to write. I found he already knew how to read from looking at all of my books. His spelling could use some improvement, though." He twitched his long ears uncomfortably. "Well, ah, anyway, I'm Meadowbuck. I live on Mystery Island."

      "And I am Lady Oakridge. Most just call me Oakridge, and the teachers call me Miss Oakridge. I live just a few miles from the university, so I stay at home during the school year." She watched the dappled sunlight under one of the garden trees. "Mystery Island's a long way off. What brings you to Brightvale?"

      Meadowbuck shrugged. He liked this easygoing Bori. "Well, I have always loved it here; I think it's my favorite place in all of Neopia. My owner, Quizzer, wanted me to get a really high education. She says that I'm something special, and that I am wiser than other pets older and more experienced than me; she says I have so much to offer to Neopia. Brightvale just has a lot to offer, too: books, and old scrolls, and libraries full of literature. It is quite a place for knowledge."

      "Hmm, I agree. So you love books, too? How many have you read?"

      "Er, not many. Just fifty or so..."

      "Fifty! That's far more than me. How many Booktastic Books?"

      "Thirty. Or maybe less, I don't remember."

      Lady Oakridge laughed. "Well, that is nothing to be sneezed at. You are quite intelligent. How can you be a problem student?"

      Meadowbuck sighed. "Just unlucky, I guess."

      After a pause, the Bori spoke up again. "I'm sorry your petpet got taken away," she murmured empathetically. "I would be really upset if my petpet was confiscated. That is, I would be if I had one."

      "Don't you?"

      "Have a petpet? No. My family isn't exactly the richest around, and the petpet I really want is way too expensive to get. I run a boarding house, so... there aren't many Neopoints left over for petpets. We scrape by every year just to get me into the Academy." As if to change the subject, Lady Oakridge pulled a Tangella out of her lunchbox. "Hungry?"

      He took the proffered fruit. "Starving. Thanks." He chewed reflectively. "What kind of a petpet do you want?"

      She sighed. "A Nuk. Crazy, huh? They're from the Lost Desert. You would think I would want a Meridell petpet, since it's so much closer to home. I have never been out of the area, really, so there's no hope of my going and finding a Nuk in one of the stores. The thing is, I just can't see myself playing with a less expensive petpet, even one from Meridell."

      "Well... I love Starmane so much that I don't want a better kind of petpet. My owner has offered to find me something else, but I just love my Liobits so much that I can't give him up, even for the rarest petpet in the world. Maybe it's kind of like that for you, except you are willing to either wait until you can get what you want, or go without anything."

      Lady Oakridge stared into the sky, probably imagining romping with a beautiful little Nuk through the fields of Brightvale. She sighed and looked back at the ground, pushing a piece of bread along the bench to the Gelert.

      They shared the Bori's lunch in silence. Soon the bell tolled again, signaling the next class. Lady Oakridge stood up. "Come on," she said. "This one will be fun; Neopian. Miss Salliana is a nice teacher, not like that nasty Sir Cubbern. She may just let us read, since it's the first day of school. She's not so tough with the Rules, either. Actually, Sir Cubbern wrote half of those rules himself, and they only have to be obeyed when you're around him. Of course, you should still be on time, and you can't bring in petpets unless they are part of a report or something."

      They filed into the room behind a few others. Sitting at the front desk was a pretty green Kougra holding a book. She greeted them with a smile and pointed to two empty seats near the front. When everyone was sitting, Miss Salliana began to speak. "Good afternoon, students. Today I have a little assignment for you." There were a few groans. Obviously Oakridge was right about the more lenient regulations of this teacher. "This week I want you to read Brightvale Castle and write up a short report on it. You have a basic structural outline on your desk. For the rest of the class I want you to write a description about yourself; name, a bit about your family, likes and dislikes, and some of your ambitions; you know, what you want to be painted, what you want to be when you grow up, things like that. You can start whenever you want."

      Meadowbuck was quite happy. Brightvale Castle was one of his favorite books, and he liked to write, too. Maybe this school wasn't going to be so bad, after all. After glancing at the outline, he took out his Neopian notebook and started his personal description. He started with his name and Starmane's, and went on to tell about his brother and two sisters.

      Qwerty is the oldest of the four of us, but she doesn't really take it seriously. She's kind of ditsy and very flighty, but we all love her. She doesn't remember her old owner, as he abandoned her, but as a Gelert like me (only red), she still feels she could forgive him if he were to come back, though she loves Quizzer and the three of us, and would never leave us.

      My other sister, Icy, is a blue Xweetok. She, too, was adopted from the pound, but feels far differently about her former owner than Qwerty; she scorns him, and claims she could never forgive him for what he did to her. She says the only good thing that came out of being shut up in the pound was the fact that she now has a loving family with Quizzer. She is very prim and proper, very picky about the foods she eats, and very fussy about the brand names of the grooming supplies we constantly have to buy for her. You will even see her Anubis brushed until he shines, ever hair in place.

      Tepoen is my brother. He actually has a different and longer name, but he doesn't like it so I won't tell it to you. He is adventurous, strong, and fiercely loyal. He hates injustice, loves the good and true, and can fully be bestowed with the name of Gelert, faithful and courageous to the core of his soul.

      Meadowbuck found himself homesick already, and it was only the first day of school; he almost grew sad as he penned the next words.

      Last of all, there is Quizzer. Well, actually, I usually call her Mama, because that is what she is to me. I was born on her first day in Neopia. She loves me with all of her heart, and though she really loves all four of us equally, I will always have the special place in her heart that all true Neopians save for the first pet they ever create.

     He also put in a word or too about his aunt Keana, and his cousins, Meadowqueen (named after Meadowbuck himself. He was very fond of her), Filigon, and Hollpy.

      He disliked the same things as Tepoen; he fought selflessly for the good and defeated evil wherever possible. He did not actually say this in so many words, but in his heart and soul he was a dedicated Neopian, a soldier of virtue, a devoted friend and companion. The few ambitions he had were to read all of the books in Neopia, finish instructing Starmane in his writing skills, and teach as many young Neopets as possible to appreciate the authors and writers of the world, and to send them on their way equipped with the knowledge it would take to make their way in life. He didn't even have any desire to be painted.

      At the end of the class, everyone began handing in their papers and leaving the room. Most were only a page long, and Meadowbuck was busily putting his into his bag when he found Miss Salliana looking at him.

      "Meadowbuck," she said softly. "Aren't you going to give me your report?"

      "Oh," he said, flushing. "Ah, well, this is still just my rough draft. I planned on editing it and returning it tomorrow or the next day."

      The Kougra laughed. "Oh, Meadowbuck, you don't have to do that. I'm sure it's just fine. This was merely meant to be a fun assignment for the first day of school. I don't need a polished autobiography." She held out her paw and he passed her the papers. She glanced over it and smiled. "I can see that you have a talent and desire for writing. I might be able to give you special tutoring a few days after school if you wanted some extra help."

      Meadowbuck felt light-headed. "I... I... of course, sure, I'd like that."

      She smiled. "Okay, I'll let you know tomorrow when I am available. You had better be running along if you want to be on time to the next class."

      Meadowbuck nodded energetically and trotted out of the room. He almost laughed. How could you be a problem student to one teacher and an aspiring scholar to the next?

 

      That night, when his homework was finished, Meadowbuck lay on his dorm bed gazing out the window. Despite the fact that he stayed in a room with five other Neopets, he felt empty and alone without Starmane to keep him company. He had been so busy he hadn't really realized he was without his old friend, but now that he had settled down, he felt the gap strongly. Lady Oakridge had gone home, and he had gone to his room to study when she left. It so happened that he had an old edition Brightvale Castle among his baggage, so he had read through it before starting on the first draft of his report. He knew that it wasn't due until Friday, but he had always made sure to do his homework as early as possible so that there was no way he could miss the deadline. Besides, he couldn't disappoint Miss Salliana. He also had some geography to finish from Sir Cubbern's class and a paper from history class to fill out. His math and science teachers hadn't given out any work for the night.

      The spotted Blumaroo he had seen earlier had the top bed of the bunk they shared. He popped his head down and looked at the Gelert.

      "Hi," he said. "I'm Sproingal. What's your name? And do you know where the healing springs are?"

      "Meadowbuck. Faerieland. Why do you ask?"

      The spotted shoulders shrugged. "Just like to know everyone's name. And that was one of the questions in geography."

      "What my name is?"

      "No, where the healing springs are."

      "You're not supposed to cheat."

      "I'm not, really: it just saves me the time of having to look it up. Thanks for your help." He flipped back up, but soon returned. "Aren't you that problem student?"

      Meadowbuck winced at the title. "Well, I suppose."

      Sproingal considered this. "Hmm, you're pretty smart for a problem student. I hear that you're a real wiz at Neopian. What's that?" He nodded at the half-finished report lying on the pillow below.

      "Book report."

      "The book report! That isn't due for days."

      "Yeah, I know. I just wanted to be sure it would be done."

      "Wow, you are some problem student. Hey," he added. "I am a special favorite with Sir Cubbern, since I have never broken one of his rules in class. Maybe I could get your petpet back for you."

      "He said I 'have to merit it.'"

      "Yeah, he does that. It just means he'll keep it until it starts to annoy him with its bouncing or squawks or something. That was a Liobits, right? They don't really make much noise, do they? Not like Feepits." A spotted Feepit was cuddled up in a hammock swinging from the ceiling above the bunk.

      "Nope. But Starmane might have a thing or two to write to him."

      "He can write? Did you teach him?"

      "Yeah."

      "Gee." The head disappeared, but the voice continued. "Well, I might just talk to the head of the school board. You're way too smart to be considered a problem. I'm sure you did everything by accident. Don't worry about it- you'll have your petpet back by tomorrow."

      "Oh... thanks."

      "No problem. By the way, do you think that you could teach my Feepit to write? It would be cool if we could sort of understand each other."

      "Ah... well, maybe. I think you would do a better job, because she knows you better. You just have to say the name of something and make sure she knows what it is before writing it out. Spelling might be a little, well, harder."

      "Oh, I guess that doesn't sound too bad. I'll start tomorrow."

      They didn't speak anymore for a long while. Meadowbuck lay back, trying not to think too much of his family back in Mystery Island. After the description he had had to write about them, he couldn't help but think about his siblings and cousins. Then he thought about Quizzer. Right from the start, she had wanted him to be the smartest pet in all of Neopia. The first thing she did when she brought him home to the little house was sit down with him and read him a book. Ever since then, he had read every book he came across. Sometimes he would get them as gifts, and other times he would buy them with his own Neopoints. He loved books more than anything else in all Neopia. His bunkmate's voice brought him crashing back to the lonely dormitory.

      "Uh-oh. They're at it again," Sproingal muttered. "Look, Meadowbuck, over there." He pointed out the window to two shadowy figures heading for the university. "It's Rasival and his buddy Sacrige the Lupe. I wonder what they're doing this time?"

      "Rasival is that Grarrl from geography," Meadowbuck noted. "What do you mean, Sproingal? What do they usually do?"

      "Mess around with stuff at school. You know, tip over desks, bust chalkboards, toss around the food in the kitchen. They're real troublemakers. They have done it a ton of times over the past couple of years. That's why Sir Cubbern is so cranky: he's had to replace his equipment four times because of them. I guess he hopes that he'll catch whoever's doing it by keeping an eye on the ones who break the rules. Rasival and Sacrige are real angels in his class, of course. They just keep on breaking things in the dead of night. The teachers can't stop them because they don't know who does it all, and none of us tell them because Rasival'll chew us up if we do."

      "Why don't we tell the teachers about them tomorrow?"

      Sproingal shook his head. "I wouldn't do that. Rasival has spies all over the school. They'd find out about you quicker than an Eyrie can fly and you'd be paying a million-Neopoint hospital bill."

      Meadowbuck looked up at the Blumaroo. "I'm not worried about getting hurt. I'll tell the school board tomorrow and put an end to all of it. I'm not afraid of a couple of bullies."

      Sproingal pulled the blanket over his head. "All right, if you want to. Just don't mention my name, okay?"

      "Don't worry. I won't let you get hurt." Meadowbuck wasn't exactly sure if this promise could be kept, but he would do his best.

      The lights were turned out, and five of the six students fell asleep. The last one waited until he could hear the others steady breathing before rising quietly and flitting out of the room.

To be continued...

 
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