Brain of Neopia: Part Two
Roan paced up and down inside his tent. What, he thought, am I supposed to do now?
It was the day after. The Producer had booked an express boat all the way to Neopia Central for him, which he had been rushed onto, and, just a few hours after being told he was entering the competition, he was being shown to his plot by a burly security Skeith.
Something that the Producer had overlooked was accommodation. He had booked Roan a plot of land just outside the grand hall where the quiz was to take place, and a tent had been hired for him. Unfortunately, it was a self-assembly tent.
Roan didn’t like anything that was self-assembly – unless somebody else was prepared to self-assemble it for him – but nonetheless, he set to work trying to put it up. However, it was mere seconds before he was lost in a flurry of tent pegs, canvas, ropes and mysterious, oddly-shaped parts that didn’t seem to have a function, except to appear when the tent appears finished, with a role that doesn’t become clear until two o’clock in the morning, in the middle of a howling gale, when the sides collapse. There are pieces like this present in every tent bag.
Despite his shortcomings, Roan was nothing if not determined, and, more by luck than judgement, produced within the hour something that vaguely resembled a tent. The tent pegs were hammered firmly into the ground, but weren’t attached to anything – Roan had tied all the guide ropes to a nearby tree, and draped the canvas over wherever seemed suitable. This led to a shelter that was ten feet long, six feet high, and which had no walls.
For Roan, however, the condition of his tent was the least of his worries.
The first round starts tomorrow, he thought. And I don’t know anything. But I can’t afford to lose. I’ll be a laughing stock. Well, even more of a laughing stock than I am at the moment.
He sat down on the grass. A moment later, a gust of wind blew, undoing one of the knots tying the ropes to the tree. The canvas collapsed.
Roan spent the next minute frantically battling the material. When he eventually emerged, he was met by the beaming face of the Producer.
“Having fun?” he asked, as Roan scrabbled to his feet.
“Oh yes,” said Roan, looking back at the mess that was supposed to be his tent.
“Glad to hear it,” said the Producer. “I passed some of the other contestants on the way across. Most of them were reading!” The Producer put a lot of scorn into that word. “Imagine that! They’re revising!”
“Yes,” said Roan. I should revise, he thought.
“Probably bought the books from the Book Shop, I expect,” said the Producer. “Pick a subject they know nothing about, and learn about it.” As soon as he goes, thought Roan, I’m going to the Book Shop. I need to find a book on a subject I know nothing about. Shouldn’t be difficult. Aloud, he said “Yes.”
“They all think they’re going to win this, though.”
“Deluded. Clearly you’re the only one who knows you’re going to win.”
“Are you going to put your tent up? It’ll be dark soon.”
“It is up,” snapped Roan. “I just didn’t do it in the conventional method.”
“Really?” The Producer didn’t look convinced. “I’m sure you know what you’re doing. Anyway, good luck for tomorrow. Not that you need it, though!” He chuckled, as he turned.
Roan waited until he had passed out of sight, before turning, and running in the other direction, stopping only to shove some money in the hand of a passing Shoyru, and to tell them to put up his tent for him.
Being unfamiliar with the cramped streets, it took Roan a while to work out where he was, even longer to work out that where he thought he was, and it was almost dark before he could bring himself to ask for directions to the Book Shop. As it was, he arrived at the shop just a few minutes before the closing time on the door indicated.
The shopkeeper, an elderly Lupe, looked up from his desk as Roan entered.
“Good evening, sir,” he said. “You’re in luck – I was just about to lock up for the night.”
“Interesting story,” panted Roan. “I need a book.”
“You’ve come to the right place,” said the shopkeeper, standing up. “On any subject in particular?”
“It needs to tell me everything that could ever be asked in a quiz.”
“Everything?” asked the shopkeeper.
“Everything!” said Roan.
“There is no such book,” said the shopkeeper, looking surprised. “A book like that would render all other books obsolete.”
“But I’m entering a quiz tomorrow, and I need to know everything!” said Roan.
“Yes, everything!” said Roan, exasperated.
“I’m afraid, kind sir, that you’re not going to learn everything by tomorrow. To learn everything there is to know would be impossible. We cannot comprehend all the mysteries of the universe.”
“I don’t need to comprehend them. I just need to comprehend the answers to the questions being asked at Brain of Neopia tomorrow.”
“And you need to know everything?”
“Yes! Have I not emphasised that enough?”
“Unfortunately, no book in here will teach you everything.”
“However, I have books that can help you to learn a lot on a subject of your choice. What area in particular were you hoping to brush up on?”
“Everything!” shouted Roan.
The shopkeeper sighed.
“Possibly an encyclopaedia then?”
“I already have a working bike, thanks.”
“No, no, sir. It’s a book that contains information on a large number of topics.”
“I’ll buy it.”
“Very well.” The shopkeeper hobbled across to a shelf and lifted down a thick volume. “This is a copy of the Neopedia. It contains a lot of what you may need to know. If you learn all of this, you can’t go far wrong.”
Roan opened the book, and glanced at a page.
“It looks very complicated,” he said.
“That’s because you’ve got it upside down,” said the shopkeeper, correcting his grip on the volume.
Roan read the page he was on.
‘MERIDELL. A large constituency, consisting of approximately 1.4% of the population of Neopia. The population density is in the region of 6 per square kilometre, due to the large amount of farmland and other agricultural structures...’
Roan closed the book.
“It’s a bit technical, isn’t it?” said Roan. The shopkeeper frowned at the title.
“Ah, yes. There are a number of different copies of the Neopedia. I assumed you wanted the most concise version, the Technical Neopedia. There are different versions.”
The shopkeeper let Roan browse the other copies he had: the General Neopedia (‘MERIDELL: A medieval country whose inhabitants are behind that of the rest of Neopia by a few years. It is a monarchy, ruled for many years now by King Skarl’); the Children’s Neopedia (‘MERIDELL: A really old place, full of lots of nice things to do’); and the Historical Neopedia (‘HISTORY OF MERIDELL: Essentially a lot of wars. They always start these wars badly, nearly lose, before rallying towards the end at the last minute and winning as a result of some heroics that also seem like they’re going to turn out bad and then don’t. They generally end with some sort of exciting general celebration and a large feast, more to satisfy Skarl than for any victory purposes.’) Eventually Roan chose a copy of the General Neopedia.
“That’ll be three thousand neopoints,” said the shopkeeper.
“Do you haggle?” asked Roan.
“I can do. What’s your limit?”
“I can’t go below five thousand,” said Roan. The shopkeeper looked confused for a moment.
“That’s higher than I’m asking for.”
“I’m experienced,” lied Roan. “I took you by surprise, didn’t I?”
“Yes,” agreed the shopkeeper. “I’ll accept five thousand.”
“Unfortunately, you’ve taken too long,” said Roan. “It’s now six.”
“Six will do.”
“Fine, six and a half, my final offer.”
“You push too hard. Fine, I can stretch to seven, but that’ll be almost bankrupting me.”
Eventually, when the shopkeeper had negotiated enough to buy a small house, Roan stopped bargaining, emptied his pockets, and took the book back to his tent. The pet he had paid had done a good job, and the tent stood, perfectly constructed. The Shoyru stood next to it.
”What do you want?” Roan snapped.
“I... I put the tent up for you,” quavered the Shoyru. “But you... you only gave me six neopoints. I was sort of hoping that you would, you know, give me a little bit more...” He trailed off, as Roan was glaring at him.
“Why would I give you more?” asked Roan. “You put it up badly. You can’t stand up in it, there are ropes all around it which could be tripping hazards, and there is no air conditioning. You’re lucky I’m not asking for a refund.”
“But that’s... how the instructions said... to do it...” stammered the Shoyru.
“And are the instructions sleeping in it?” demanded Roan. “No. Am I sleeping in it? Why, I think I am! So whose opinion is more important? Mine or the instructions?”
“Yours,” said the Shoyru, choosing the answer that sounded right.
“Exactly. So, are you likely to get more money if you don’t put it up exactly like I ask you to?”
“So, are you going to stick around and do it properly this time?”
“Yes.” There wasn’t really anything else he could say.
So, Roan sat, leaning against the tree, as the Shoyru carefully disassembled the tent, and started to put it up wrong. He opened the Neopedia, and started reading the first article.
‘AABAROO: A famous Neopian explorer. Aabaroo was the first pet to travel to both the peak of Terror Mountain, and the bottom of Maraqua. His heroic journeys were particularly impressive when compared with the fact that the only other pets to have achieved this feat since are either accustomed to the cold or aquatic – as a Blumaroo, Aabaroo was neither of these.
In recent years, though, Aabaroo’s claim that he was the first to do so have been disputed by historian Ollga. In the unofficial words of Ollga, “Aabaroo is a big liar, and he’s talking rubbish.” In the official version, Ollga states that “Aabaroo may not have been the first. Examining evidence from his diaries (the collection of which is entitled “Height and Prejudice”, where Aabaroo discusses how being tall helped him, and how people not expecting him to be able to perform the feat didn’t), there is evidence that the same flag is present at the top of the mountain and the bottom of the sea, suggesting that a person, or group of people, have already achieved this feat.”
Aabaroo has frequently denied these rumours. In an interview with Yannick the Lenny, from the Neopian Times ‘Records Involving High and Low Places’ column, he stated that “There were lots of flags down there. I wasn’t really paying attention. It was very cold and/or wet.”
Most people in the middle ground, however, don’t seem to think it really matters, and nobody is challenging Aabaroo’s claims to be the first to achieve this feat. Indeed, virtually every pet to do it since did it as an accident by either getting lost, or falling out of their boat, or, in the case of Ruwacha the Nimmo, dropping a Neopoint, and vowing not to stop searching until she found it, or she had looked everywhere.’
Roan looked up from his reading.
“Work faster,” he shouted to the Shoyru, who jumped, causing one of the ropes he had just been tying to jerk out of his hand. Satisfied, Roan returned to his reading.
Half an hour later, Roan had finished the article on Aabaroo, turned the page, saw the title ‘Aabaroo Jnr.’, and given up. The Shoyru had finished reconstructing the tent, had accepted another six neopoints from Roan, and ran away before he could be made to do anything more.
Roan entered his walk-in tent, and sat down again. He pulled out the leaflet from his pocket advertising the show, and read it again. The words ‘eternal humiliation’ leapt out at him.
I can’t let that happen, he thought firmly. I need to finish the Neopedia today.
Reluctantly, he lifted the large book onto his lap, and opened it.
‘AABAROO JNR: Brother of the famous Aabaroo. Aabaroo Jnr is a celebrated architect, and is particularly famed for designing the houses in the northernmost sector of Terror Mountain, for which he won the prestigious Hooper Award for Doing Good Stuff With Bricks... the prestigious Hooper Award... Hooper Award...’
Roan’s head fell forward, and he started to snore.
To be continued...