The eighth day of Storing, ordinary in most respects, that is, unless you happen to be a Pteri. Pete didn’t need ribbons and balloons to remind him, or the ordinarily yellow on yellow package turned red and blue and sparkly. He had been looking forward to the day for weeks, not for the customary singing, candle blowing, cake eating celebration, but to see what his esteemed friend, Professor Edgar Eyrie, might do for the occasion.
And, indeed, the Professor had come up with a wonderful surprise, a Scavenger Hunt.
The Professor had managed to keep it a secret from Pete, but word had gotten out and all of Neopia had whispered about it all week. Pets in all the Lands showed support by wearing name tags. School Supplies had created a special name tag for the occasion, a picture of the Professor in the upper left hand corner, a picture of a Pteri in the upper right, and a red and blue sparkly ribbon connecting them. Any pet asked to participate would surely consider it an honor, except possibly the Mutants, who didn’t seem to capture the spirit of the event, and a handful of Korbats who were still exhausted from Korbat Day two weeks earlier.
“Knock, knock, can I come in?” It was the White Xweetok, Halcyonne, a friend of Pete’s from their days at the Lenny Conundrum School of Puzzles. “I got you a few things,” the Xweetok said excitedly, packages falling out of her paws and landing helter skelter. “You can open them later. Let’s go,” urged Halcyonne as she tugged Pete’s wing and they headed off to the Roo Island Merry Go Round, a popular Neopian celebration spot. There they joined two friends, Lemon, a Gray Ixi, and Spike, a Purple Uni, both already sporting pointy party hats with multi-colored tassels blowing in the gentle breeze.
“Are you ready for the Professor’s Scav...?” the Yellow Blumaroo ride operator began, only to be poked by Hallie, muttering “Shhhh, shhhh.”
“What?” asked Pete, turning back around.
Just as the situation was about to become awkward, Professor Edgar Eyrie swooped down from high in the sky and joined them. A small crowd formed as more than just the four friends circled around the Professor.
“Petey, my friend,” began the Eyrie in his deep authoritarian professor voice, “in honor of this special day, Pteri Day, tonight we will hold the first ever Professor Edgar Eyrie Scavenger Hunt.” Enthusiastic shouts of “whoo hoo” interrupted him, and the Professor paused. “It will be the five of us. I’ll moderate, of course, and the four of you, Pete, Hallie, Lem and Spike, will compete. Just a friendly competition, my friends, let’s leave the cutthroat stuff to Lenny Conundrums.
“Let’s say, for example,” he continued, “you need to find a Pet with a vegetable in its name, a pet called MrAsparagus could win or a pet called LimaBeanie. In case of disputes, my decision will be final. Each round will have a time limit. The prize is a copy of Pteri Games.
“Are there any questions?” The friends all shook their heads. “Good,” finished the Eyrie. “We’ll meet back here tonight.”
“I’ll bring some refreshments,” offered Pete.
“You don’t need to do that,” responded Hallie. “This is our day to celebrate you.” The others echoed the sentiment, but Pete was insistent.
“I really want to,” repeated Pete, causing his friends to nod in acquiescence.
Pete stopped at the Food Shop to get some Marshmallow Milkshakes, then off to Pizzaroo at the Neopian Plaza, where he picked out an assortment of pizzas. When he was all done, Pete had forty neopoints left. He took out his Red Coin Purse, inserted the forty neopoints and shrugged. Forty neopoints are forty neopoints, he thought to himself.
* * *
They reunited on Roo Island and, after enjoying the pizza and milkshakes, were anxious to get started. Feathers and fur fluttered. The excitement of the four friends was palpable.
“For the first task,” the Professor began, his deep voice commanding their attention, “your task is to find a pet with...” The professor’s discourse was suddenly interrupted by the exploding noise of a Pteri Day fireworks display nearby. They stopped to watch, but after a few minutes the professor continued, “your task is to find a pet with a finger in its name. You all know what fingers are, right? Those little appendages coming out of a human hand.”
It’s not clear how Pete made his error; it could have been that he misheard the Professor, but more likely he was distracted by the fireworks display with its magnificent colors. What wonderful colors the fireworks are, Pete was thinking as the Professor finished his instructions. So while the other three went off to correctly find a pet with a finger in its name, Pete got it in his head that he was looking for a pet with a color in its name.
Pete had barely left the island when he came across a Pink Poogle named Pinkypoo. While Pete would not normally stop to talk to a pet with such a girly name, there was the click of recognition, pink, a color! That was surprisingly fast, surely fast enough to win, thought Pete, who in his excitement took a wrong turn with the Poogle on their way back and managed to get them hopelessly lost.
Meanwhile Hallie had taken a more systematic approach. She took out pencil and paper and jotted down the word, thumb. Then she went off to the Boards. She looked over the categories, settling on Games, Quests and Help. She posted Need a pet with a Finger in its name in all three categories. Then she browsed through previous postings checking the pet name for each one. For a second she thought she had found something, but it turned out to be a Skunk Bori named Thumper. Every time she went back to her posts, a big Zero caught her eye in the Number of Posts column. Finally it was time to return, disappointingly empty-pawed.
Despite her shyness, Lemon tried going door to door at the Roo Island Properties. Her experience was similar to Hallie’s. She found pets with all kinds of imaginative names, even anatomical ones, but no fingers. Everyone was anxious to help and wanted to be included. But, alas, she too had to return unsuccessful.
Lastly, Spike gave up without any effort and went to Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe for a refreshing Sakhmetian Brew! He, too, returned to Roo Island without a pet.
Professor Edgar Eyrie was having second thoughts. Back on Roo Island with Hallie, Lemon and Spike, the Professor was starting to think he had made the task too hard.
“Look! Look!” Shouts interrupted the Professor’s thoughts. Everyone could see Pete and the Pink Poogle off in the distance. Finally recovered from their wrong turn, the two had made it back just in time. Pete couldn’t believe he was the only one with a pet.
“But colors is a really easy category,” Pete shook his head, confused.
“The category isn’t colors. It’s fingers!” the others shouted in unison.
“Fingers! Oh no!” Pete collapsed onto his tail, exhausted from rushing to get back in time, thinking he too had failed the first round.
“The winner of the first round is Pete with the pet named PinkyPoo, pinky being the common name for the littlest finger,” the Professor’s deep voice rang out.
“Me? Oh my gosh.” Pete was happily surprised. He had, indeed, found a pet with a finger in its name.
* * *
It was time for the second round. Pete and his friends were even more excited now.
“Ahem,” a gentle clearing of the Professor’s throat and quiet fell over the chatty crowd which had grown to two pets deep by now. Although not officially in the Scavenger Hunt, the crowd had taken to playing along and a big burst of applause had broken out when one of them had returned on the first challenge with a Blue Korbat named Thumbkin.
Their attention now turned to the Professor, the varied timbres and pitches of pet voices hushed, the sweet but repetitious melody of the Merry Go Round calliope could be heard nearby.
“For the next challenge, we will use the same time limit. This time you will need to find an Item, an Item with two words in its name, both words starting with the same letter.”
“Are there any questions?” the Professor added, but everyone was gone, not just Pete and his friends, but the entire crowd.
Most headed over to the Book Store. The Blue Nimmo shopkeeper fell off his pile of books as the onslaught of pets descended on his shop. There was a run on Purple Power, the likes of which the Nimmo had never seen. Usually one of the last volumes to sell, although always before the overpriced Scaredy Acara, this evening Purple Power was the first to sell out, its eighteen copies emptying even before the one copy of the coveted volume of Tusk Care for Moehogs. Books were flying all over as pets scrambled for Forever Ferny, Faerie Folk and Shoyru Surprise.
Luckily the melee at the Book Store didn’t affect Pete or his friends. They each knew where they were going and headed straight for the item. Pete still had one Marshmallow Milkshake left from the refreshments earlier. Hallie went for her stamp collection. The Scarab Stamp seemed perfect, light and easy to carry. Lemon had gotten her twelfth Metallic Mote from King Altador that morning and being noncombatant, was happy to find a use for one. Finally, Spike had an extra copy of Unique Unis.
This stage of the Scavenger Hunt was turning into a race. Hallie and Lemon galloped with ease. Pete’s wings flapped quickly in an irregular rhythm. He lacked the smooth glide of a larger-winged pet and he gulped as Spike the Uni fluttered past him. Spike’s combination of wings and hooves gave him the most maneuverability through the varied Neopian topography.
The Professor watched carefully as the four contestants came bounding over the Rainbow Bridge connecting Neopia Central with Roo Island, first Spike, then Hallie, Pete and Lemon not far behind. They had all met the criteria with their items and Spike, the first to arrive back, was declared the winner of the second round.
* * *
Excitement on Roo Island was growing, the crowd now three pets deep, four in scattered places.
“Are you having fun?” the Professor yelled to them.
Whistles, cheers and applause followed.
“You’re doing great,” he assured them. “I just hope you all take the time to read your new books,” (Even in the middle of a game, the Professor was still a Professor, and if the pets of Neopia did a little extra reading that week, surely that was a good thing.)
“Awwww,” the crowd groaned loudly.
“I didn’t quite hear you,” the Professor toyed with them, “Are we going to read our new books?”
This time the crowd obligingly cheered.
“What’s the next round?” came a small voice from the back.
“For the next round, our players have to find something that will make me laugh. This is highly subjective, of course. And although order of finish may be a factor, if someone comes back first and gives me a chuckle and someone else returns later, giving me a knee-slapping guffaw, then I will have to award the round to the latter.” Everyone had to smile. The image of the restrained, dignified, monocled Professor having a knee-slapping guffaw seemed ridiculous in itself.
“Are there any questions?”
Hallie raised her paw.
“Is it a pet name we’re looking for or an item?”
“Anything. Anything that will make me laugh.”
Off they went.
For Pete, who didn’t have the most highly refined sense of humor in Neopia, there were three clear choices, Rainbow Dung, the new wearable Pile of Dung, or a Mutant Quiggle. He got out his coin purse, forty neopoints, just enough, exactly to the neopoint. Pete couldn’t stop giggling as he shopped the Shop Wizard for the wearable Pile of Dung.
Quiet, shy Lemon decided to fetch a funny book. There were many choices. She looked at Court Jester Jokes and Jokes to Make a Skarl Laugh, but finally decided on Hilarious Chia Jokes.
Hallie and Spike both had the same idea, Novelty Glasses, and they were both able to easily borrow a pair, Hallie from someone on the Boards and Spike at Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe.
The Professor smiled as Lemon came back with her book. The smile turned into a broader grin as Pete returned with his wearable dung. Hallie, the White Xweetok, and Spike, the Purple Uni, returned neck and neck. Hallie put on the Novelty Glasses and the Professor burst out laughing. It was amusing, the refined beauty of the Xweetok with her big doe eyes made comical by the big nose, black glasses and bushy mustache. Spike, who was slightly ahead of Hallie, tried to put on his Novelty Glasses, but, alas, they weren’t yet wearable by Unis. He tried holding them up to his face, but it just wasn’t the same thing.
Round three was awarded to Hallie and although it was a subjective choice, everyone agreed, even Pete who was still giggling over his wearable Pile of Dung.
* * *
“Last round, everybody.” The crowd groaned, expressing disappointment that it would soon be over.
A competitive tension was growing among the four friends. Pete, Spike and Hallie had each won one round.
“For the last round, players have to find a pet with a number in its name. Instead of whoever comes back first, for this round only, whichever computes to the highest number will win.” Once again there was a cloud of dust and a sprinkling of feathers as the pets scurried off before the Professor could ask for questions.
Lemon went back to the Neohomes on Roo Island properties. Everyone had been so nice, she felt welcomed and able to talk to new pets despite her usual shyness. There were lots of pets with numbers. Some pets thought 13 was a lucky number but Lemon knew that wasn’t nearly high enough to be competitive. She settled on a Baby Jubjub named 90765Tangleberry, its address. That way the owner felt the Jubjub would never get lost.
Pete stumbled across a Red Yurble whose owner needed to make some purchases at the Grooming Shop. It was in need of a shampoo and brushing. Through the matted fur, it looked like the pet’s name was 666666666. Wow! thought Pete. It will be hard to beat a number that big!
The four competitors all returned about the same time. Lemon looked over at the pet with Pete, 666666666. What an odd name for a pet, Lemon thought to herself as her face fell with disappointment. Over six hundred sixty-six million. That was going to be hard to beat. Pete’s chest got a little puffy as he looked over at the other pets. Hallie and Spike had returned with pets named 900_Cubed and 11111x11111, respectively.
The Professor got out his abacus and frantically started moving the beads around. This could take a while and everyone was anxious to know the outcome of the round. Beads moved so quickly their colors merged into a cloud of blended hues. Finally the computations were complete.
“Lemon has the very fine number of ninety thousand, seven hundred sixty-five.
“Next is Spike with 123,454,321, the product of 11,111 times 11,111, and an exquisite palindrome. My compliments.”
“Then, with the extraordinary number of 666,666,666 is Pete.” Pete wondered why his number was called out next. Hallie’s number hadn’t looked big enough to beat his. He waddled over to Lemon and Spike and tried to smile.
“And finally, Hallie’s number, 900 cubed or 900 times 900 times 900, is 729,000,000.” Hallie smiled modestly. Pete was happy for his good friend, but couldn’t help kicking a little dirt with his webbed foot.
“Wait a minute!” yelled an inquisitive Faerie Lenny in the crowd. “How come the red and blue banner is on the bottom of the nametag?” He was pointing at 666666666.
The Professor moved over to inspect the nametag of the matted Red Yurble. “You’re correct,” announced the Professor. “The nametag is, indeed, upside-down. Upon closer inspection, this pet’s number is 999,999,999! This round goes to Pete!”
Everyone gathered around Pete to congratulate him, and lifted him on their shoulders. Pete was overwhelmed. It had been the most wonderful Pteri Day ever.
Previous misadventures of Pete and the Professor:
Professor Edgar Eyrie’s Magic Square (NT 293)
Petey and the Word Search Puzzle (NT 307)