Dusk's Enterprise: Research Inc. - Part Five
Our shop was closed for the night when we got home. But that wasn’t a real issue; we had a key and were able to get inside and set our stuff down. Twilight decided to risk letting the Niptor out to stretch his legs within the building.
Migga, who had stayed behind to greet us, set up a food and water dish in a corner and a petpet litter tray, which the little fellow visited in turns before turning around to regard us all.
Obsidian, lying across Migga’s broad shoulders, eyed the two legged intruder for a moment, then hopped lightly down to sniff noses and introduce himself in the usual petpet manner.
Both Twilight and I watched warily. Both petpets had their share of sharp teeth and claws, and jealousy generally led to fights. The pair sniffed and circled one another briefly. Then the Niptor snorted delicately and pattered off to investigate the mysterious depths under the nearest desk. Obsidian yawned and began to wash behind an ear with a paw.
I let out a breath. Maybe Twilight got through to the fellow when she told him to behave. That was better than trying to separate two snarling, biting animals.
“He seems quite smart,” Migga said carefully, observing the Niptor, who was currently investigating a desk drawer, sliding it open... and closed... and open again. “He plays with it, finds out how it works and gets used to using it before going on.”
I nodded. “I think petpets are smarter than we give them credit for. Even Obsidian can figure out how to do something after messing with it for a while.”
“Of course,” Shade said, retrieving a pen from the petpet’s gnawing jaws, “that makes them a bit of a handful. They can end up in trouble if they get something poisonous or sharp.”
“You’re thinking of getting a petpet too, aren’t you, Migga?” Depth guessed, mildly amused as she herded the petpet into his crate for the night.
“Well, Dusk got a Tyrannian petpet when she visited. It would only be fair to get a Darigan petpet for myself.”
My ears sank a little. Oh sure we had a Petpet Arena, but...
“Ah... we don’t have any petpet shops at home,” Depth voiced my disappointing news herself. “Y’see... Nobody wants a Darigan citizen to torment helpless, homeless petpets. The only reason any of us get one is if we go to another land to get one and bring it all the way back.”
Migga’s mouth fell open, rendered speechless for the first time by a prejudice against our people, “I... you... please tell me you are kidding,” she finally managed to force the words out in a rather strangled voice.
Everyone’s ears drooped.
“Migga, sweetie, you remember how our people went through wars...?” I tried to put it into words.
“We went through a war,” Migga replied flatly, her warm gaze now flashing angrily.
“Ah, yes, well,” Shade tried awkwardly, “when you seem to be on the bad side of a fight... you tend to be blamed just for living there.”
“There is no bad side of a fight but the fight itself!” Migga tossed her mane angrily, her Tyrannian accent starting to break through her Common Neopian. “Even if you are in the wrong it does not make you evil!”
I smiled softly, if a little pained at the horror and confusion on Migga’s face. We were all braced for the reality of how we were treated; we expected it, we were prepared for it, and we knew how to let hateful remarks roll off like water on a Mallard’s back. Even if we weren’t exactly the warmest people to get close to, we knew how to handle it.
Migga... in this sense, she had been incredibly sheltered in her home. Even if others thought of her people as primitive, her people weren’t shunned like ours. And the thought of prejudice as terrible as this wounded the very heart of Migga’s beliefs.
“Migga,” I finally said, as Migga sat down with a hard thump in the face of this reality, “it’s... not totally what we did that made us distrusted.”
Migga looked up at me, confusion and hurt for our sake in her eyes, but she was listening.
Slowly, I explained to her what had happened. How we had owned an orb that made our people happy and prosperous. How King Skarl’s troops had seen what the orb did and stole it to bring happiness to their own people. How the orb then revealed its terrible bad side. Without the orb, sickness had ravaged our people and twisted our forms into darkness and the embodiment of fear.
“The Orb didn’t just poof happiness out of nowhere,” Twilight told our friend softly. “It stole happiness and health from someone else, and made them all sick while it gave the stolen joy to someone else. No matter who had the thing, there was always someone else who suffered because of it.”
“At the time, we were so desperate to have it back, we didn’t see the hidden trap the orb held,” I continued. “But by then it was far too late. Our people were sick and transformed with foreign germs. No one could safely approach us without getting sick too. Not only did we look evil, but we made everyone around us suffer just by being nearby.”
“But you’re not sick now!” Migga protested, staring each one of us in the eyes.
“That’s true,” Shade agreed, “but we still have the forms that the sickness gave us. The paint brush that we sell only changes the looks of others. But real Darigan citizens got that way by illness. Everyone is afraid that even though we are healthy, we may still carry the original sickness inside us. People are afraid we’ll somehow spread the germs and are afraid to set up shops with living creatures.”
“But I’m here. I’m healthy. And Dusk went to my home and met with all of the Tyrannian people! None of us got sick! Even if you’re used to being treated this way, it doesn’t make it right!” Migga sprang up and paced in frustration, not quite daring to stomp her powerful hoof into the floor for fear of breaking through.
We all shared a sad glance.
“Anyway,” Depth decided to switch the topics, “Did you perhaps want a Meridell petpet? We usually go to Meridell for all our petpet needs anyway, and just paint them dark colors so they fit in.”
Migga looked ready to argue that she wanted a Darigan petpet, not a Meridell one, and then finally exhaled with a weary whicker. This wasn’t something she could fix by arguing, “Yes... Maybe tomorrow after a good night’s sleep, we can look through your binder, Depth.”
As we all made our way back up to the Citadel and our homes, I smiled at my friend. “Listen, Migga, I know it sounds like a terrible thing we face... but that’s why we go to other worlds.”
I could hardly believe that I was putting into words something that I had learned, at least subconsciously, in my travels. I could almost forgive that idiot of a principal for dropping me into such a frightening situation as he had. I was actually starting to get the ideas behind some of his reasons for booting us all out into the wide world.
“You can’t change something by arguing about it,” I told her as we made our way through the darkened streets, “You have to teach it to them. Students went to all kinds of worlds to learn about them. But at the same time, they also taught the other people about us. We were able to start showing people that we aren’t as spooky as we seem.”
We slipped into our shared home and got ready for bed.
Hesitantly Migga spoke up. “So... just by being here and learning about your people, I am going to be able to teach everyone else and make changes that way?”
“Just like going to an extraordinary, hot, wonderful world and meeting a strange Uni helped me teach and change my own classroom,” I agreed with a smile.
The next day, Mielee showed up on our doorstep even as we unlocked the door that afternoon after class. A trip to the Trading Post later, we all toasted the success of another satisfied customer. Even Mielee didn’t scowl quite so sourly when Twilight introduced the freshly painted Niptor to his new owner.
As a lull came to our store, Migga and Depth sat next to each other and began going over the possibilities for a petpet. Curious to see what our Tyrannian friend would pick, we all clustered around to listen in.
“I don’t really care what it looks like,” Migga admitted, “I just want a friend that will be able to live with me in my own land,” here she shot an apologetic glance at me.
I shrugged and smiled. No apologies were needed of course. Friends that we were, we still had different places to call home.
Depth nodded. “Okay, so ‘fashionable’ put aside for the moment; what kinds of things to you do in Tyrannia? Do you run and jump a lot? Climb? Anything that may not work out for something like, say a Turtum?” She flipped through the pages and showed Migga a picture.
“Oh... no, I don’t think a Turtum would be a good idea. My legs are long and when I gallop, it would be impossible for a shelled creature to keep up with me.” Migga paused and thought carefully. “My land is hot and dry, so nothing that needs to be always by water. Nothing Robot because of dust. Nothing dark colored because of the heat. Something that can run or fly to keep up...”
One by one petpets were taken off of the list. When it came down to a contest between a Dragoyle, a Wibreth, or a Gallion, we had to delve even deeper; we checked into the personalities that went with the creatures. Ultimately the Wibreth was taken off due to its extremely noisy nature.
After much consideration, Migga reluctantly let the Dragoyle go. They were very affectionate creatures and Migga didn’t have soft paws to constantly pet and caress them.
“Okay Migga; a Gallion. Now... what color? Regular, Island, White, Faerie or... Tyrannian?” Depth lined up the colors so Migga could compare them.
She smiled at the Tyrannian, but gently whisked the image aside. “Too shaggy, and believe me I know all about it. Besides, if it went wandering I’d never find it among our brown rocks.”
Likewise went Regular.
“Three left... Island, White or Faerie.”
My ears perked eagerly. Personally, I liked the Faerie Gallion, and its wings were big enough to fly as well as run, so the best of both worlds. But I kept quiet; this was Migga’s decision.
Migga’s eyes flicked over the pictures one after another. Finally, she smiled and touched the Faerie Gallion image with the tip of her horn. “I’d like a Faerie Gallion please.”
I smiled. “Come on, Migga, let’s go find someone who raises Gallions.”
“You know... something has me puzzled,” Migga said as we checked around Meridell. “You got your Gruslen from someone who spends a lot of time raising them. And now we are searching for someone who does the same with Gallions. But our customers all get their pets from the Trading Post. Isn’t that... uhm... ‘playing favorites’?”
I smiled. “Not at all. Item 5d on our form asks the customer what they want. You can always tell who wants a companion and who wants a status symbol. You want the Gallion to be a friend. That means you need to take time to pick one, and you can only pick your perfect petpet by talking to someone who knows all about them. If you only wanted one for show, you wouldn’t care what the personality was, so we would just grab one from the Trading Post.”
After some careful checking of notices posted around – pointedly ignoring the sour looks we were getting from the Meridell natives – we finally found an Acara who had a number of the little fellows romping around in the front yard.
“And why would you be interested in a Gallion?” he asked suspiciously when we made our way over.
And so it began. Migga politely answered several questions that the suspicious Meridellian fired off and then turned the tables and asked some of her own pointed questions. This brought a surprised but somewhat pleased atmosphere to the interview. I occupied myself with shooting a small ball like a marble across the yard and laughing when several of the little dragons charged after it and pounced on it in a Lupe-pile.
Then Migga asked to be introduced to the parents of the new little Gallions. I gave a faint nod of satisfaction; if the parents were friendly, then the babies would be too. It was always a warning in my book when someone said the parents were a ‘little nippy’, which in turn meant the babies would have behavior problems.
At a gesture from Migga’s horn, I left off playing with the horde of petpets in the yard and followed them into the house. In a quieter corner, a Gallion nestled in a basket with three little ones.
“Where is the father?” Migga asked, casting a glance around the room.
“Ah, I don’t own him, but he’s a champion in the Agility and Obedience League we run here every fall. In fact, his sire and grandsire all won awards.” The Acara was warming up quickly to the subject and was more than willing to tell us about his petpets.
Good. A Champion was always healthy and well rounded. It was a shame not to meet the sire, but that wasn’t really a surprise or even a bad mark in the Acara’s tally.
I smiled and softly stroked the mother Gallion, earning a little rumble of pleasure. She was a sweet thing, and not at all intimidated by Migga’s massive build when she came over to check out the babies for herself.
Since Migga didn’t have the paws to perform the personality test, I did it myself. Judging the reactions carefully, I selected a fellow from the pile and held him up for Migga to meet.
The tiny dragon gave a soft “Bwarr” and reached up with a paw to curiously paw at Migga’s velvety nose.
Migga whickered softly in response and I set the Gallion down.
He promptly ambled over to the Uni, peering up at her – to him – great height and twining around her legs. She stood still carefully, letting him get used to her legs. He would have to learn to stay away from those hard, heavy hooves in the future, but for now we just needed to see how the two would get along.
“I saw you testing the babies,” the Acara said softly to me as we watched the two investigate each other.
“I bought a Gruslen from a breeder,” I told him, smiling as Migga lay down and let the little dragon climb aboard. “She taught me how to test petpets properly.”
“If all you did today was learned from the breeder, then your Gruslen must be a good one.” He teased one of his ears thoughtfully. “Never thought I’d be convinced a Darigan Neopet would be a good owner for my Gallions.”
“Mmm. I guess all those rumors that must be circulating are wrong.” I was careful not to sound sarcastic as Migga burst into laughter as the Gallion climbed on top of her head and peered around, little paws hooked around her ears for balance. “Honestly, I hope we get petpets of our own one of these days.”
“Could be, if the others are as joyful as the two of you.”
I simply smiled mysteriously, not letting on that Migga wasn’t even a Darigan Citizen.
“By the way... you planning on painting him?” the Acara asked Migga after he seemed satisfied with the two interacting.
“I was planning on Painting him faerie, if I proved myself to you,” she admitted, turning her attention to the breeder.
“Do it young,” he advised, “That way he gets used to the wings and learns to fly before he gets afraid of heights.”
Migga nodded solemnly.
Eventually we convinced the Acara that Migga was perfect as an owner and we were on our way to the Rainbow Pool with the petpet paint brush clutched tightly between Migga’s teeth.
The Gallion, who Migga had dubbed Topaz, was far too young to run the whole way so he alternated riding on Migga’s back and romping alongside us on his leash. His paint job left him fascinated with the wings and he started buzzing here and there, taking off, flying a few feet and then landing with a bump and a ‘whuff’ before shaking off and trying it again. By the time we were home, he managed to zoom up to Migga’s head and land without crashing into her horn or bonking her on the head.
Introductions were soon made to my classmates, where he had to learn how to socialize with strangers without panicking.
I was a little nervous about my own petpet. Obsidian was an adult Gruslen and even at his small stature, was bigger, stronger, heavier and faster than the little Gallion cub. At first, Obsidian glared at me with stormy amethyst eyes, accusing me of bringing this littler invader into the store. Of course, I happened to be holding Topaz’s leash so jealousy might have been part of it too. My feline relaxed reluctantly when I passed the leash back to Migga once she had set down the supplies she had been carrying.
Murmuring reassurances, I walked over to my little fellow and gave him my usual warm greeting. That satisfied him completely and he promptly went over, and began their ritual petpet meet and greet.
Topaz loved attention to the point that he would hop up on our desks and sit right on top of whatever we happened to be working on. He also had a naughty habit of nipping if he felt ignored. Migga quickly began a training regime to rid him of that little habit right away.
Obsidian tolerated the bouncy youngster with resigned dignity, and seemed happiest when it was just the two of us on one of our crazy headlong runs through the darkened streets of the Citadel. And I noticed he seemed to be softening up to Topaz, at least enough to start teaching him a few rules.
Rule 1: Don’t sit in the middle of the floor. Tromping feet usually came down on tails or paws. It became Obsidian’s Good Deed every time he had to snatch the little Gallion up by the scruff of the neck whenever the door jangled open.
Rule 2: It’s usually not smart to annoy someone who’s older, bigger yadda yadda than you. I would sometimes see a mini scrap between the two of them because Topaz refused to let Obsidian relax without getting nipped somewhere tender. As much as Migga and I hated seeing the two tussling and snarling at each other, it was really the only way Topaz would learn how to behave in the petpet world.
I’m sure there were many other subtle lessons to learn, but those were the two I saw them bickering over the most. But as the somewhat hectic days passed, Topaz began to grow and learn into a much better behaved, if insanely energetic young Gallion.
To be continued...