The Road to Pyramid Parade: Part Four
Desi floated upside-down in white space, not that there was an “up” or “down” to begin with. There was nobody around her, except for a Pteri that didn’t seem to notice her. In the emptiness, Desi began to think about her situation to keep from going insane.
Down for maintenance.
It was a rare but annoying phenomenon unique to Neopia – the humans’ home world didn’t have anything like it. Anyone caught in it was stuck in a white void, deprived of almost all options. One could step back and safely reenter the place they’d come from, but until the phenomenon passed, they couldn’t go anywhere else.
Since Desi was sure both she and everyone else had no desire to return to the Haunted Woods until Halloween (if even), they remained in the white void, accompanied only by a mysterious red Pteri everyone could see, who did nothing but weep, perhaps at the white nothingness he was doomed to live in all his life.
There were many rumors about this red Pteri. It was speculated that the infamous Dr. Sloth had created him, solely to annoy Neopians. Others thought he was a mischief-maker just having fun.
But why, then, did he weep when it happened, Desi wondered. If he was evil in any way, wouldn’t this bring him pleasure? No, it had to be something else.
Perhaps he was the first Neopet to be owned by the first person who the Creators had banned from Neopia, and, since the banishment magic was in its prototype stage, it hadn’t gone quite right. Perhaps, because of this, this Pteri wasn’t set free to roam Neopia, but was instead cast into this limbo between Neopia and the human world, doomed to forever be the target of hatred when the state of Neopia fluxed and temporarily merged with this in-between state.
If that’s even what the occurrence known as “down for maintenance” really was, Desi reminded herself, mentally scolding her runaway imagination. Based on its name, it was really just the state of nonexistence that occurred when the Creators were tampering with the essence of Neopia itself, right?
But then, why the weeping Pteri? Was it only an image the Creators portrayed to express their own sadness over depriving Neopia of existence for a little while? If so, was it really a Neopet, or just a projection? And why did it seem so mischievous in its random event, and why was it an available opponent in the Battledome, yet so very sad when the world stopped?
Desi turned to regard the crying red bird, her wrap and headdress floating out behind her.
“Why do you weep?” she asked. Naturally, the Pteri did not respond. It only sat there and cried.
The Desert Lupe sighed and wondered how the others were faring. Kirsche was probably going nuts in the white void she was stuck in. Fortuna was probably asleep. Sean? Majikn? Rai? Who knew?
She blinked, incredulous, for the Pteri had started to fade. Golden sands and a blazing sun came into view, and Desi had to squint.
Then she was standing on the path with the others, and Neopia was active once more.
“I can’t believe Neopia stopped for a day!” Majikn exclaimed as they trudged across the dunes. Traders and travelers passed them, going in all directions.
Kirsche stopped one, a blue Ruki carrying a huge bundle of items.
“Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Pyramid Parade?” she asked. The Ruki mumbled an incoherent reply, and walked off.
Kirsche turned to Sean. “Did you understand a word of that?” she asked.
“No,” said Sean, grinning amusedly, “but I’d guess Pyramid Parade is by the pyramids.”
“...Oh,” said Kirsche, her face turning red.
Sean and the Neopets broke out in laughter.
“Okay, let’s follow the river,” said Majikn. “That should lead us to the pyramids.”
“Hey!” said Desi, realizing there was another landmark along the river. “Let’s stop at Coltzan’s Shrine on our way there!”
“Haha, you are just like your owner!” said Majikn, laughing. “Remember? That’s why Sean and I are coming with you in the first place!”
“Oh,” said Desi, grateful nobody could see her blush beneath her headdress. “That’s right. I’d forgotten.”
“Like owner, like Neopet,” chuckled Sean, taking the lead as the group followed the twisting river.
Desi let her tongue loll out to cool her unsweating body as the desert heat warmed her fur, her large paws allowing her greater purchase on the soft sand, while Majikn hovered over it, and the humans mainly did the best they could to maintain their balance. Her eyes were fixed on the large obelisk in the distance, growing larger and larger as they approached.
Soon, they were right in front of it, the intricate hieroglyphs standing out against the stone, proclaiming the greatness of the spirit enshrined within.
“I’ll go first,” said Majikn, approaching the towering structure with Sean.
Then Majikn’s paws glowed blue...
...And returned to normal.
“Rats, nothing,” grumbled the Shoyru as he trudged away from the shrine. Desi couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. After all, that was the reason he’d come along.
“Our turn, Desi,” said Kirsche, beginning to walk towards the monument.
Desi followed her, and stopped, sitting before the shrine, looking up at the top.
As she did, the hazy image of a Lupe came into view.
Desi blinked, thinking maybe it was a mirage. But the image stayed. Desi was suddenly filled with an incredible sense of power that compelled her to lower to all fours, sitting in a sphinxlike position, eyes filled with reverence. She was in utter awe at this powerful spirit that had come to visit her.
“King Coltzan...” she whispered.
“Thank you for coming, young Neopet,” said the spirit, his voice causing her lupine heart to skip a beat. It was incredible, this feeling of reverence that overpowered her. This was her most admired figure, speaking to her, appearing for her when he had not done so for her friend. She was immensely grateful, and tears filled her eyes to show it.
“I hope this helps,” said Coltzan, and a Tchea fruit appeared before the groveling Lupe’s nose.
“Th-Thank you!” Desi said as the spirit of Coltzan smiled and vanished.
Kirsche picked up the fruit and dusted off the sand.
“Wow,” said Sean. “It’s not ruined. Go, Coltzan.”
“Yeah, things are really looking up!” said Kirsche cheerfully. “C’mon, Desi, let’s go.”
But Desi was staring up at the spot where Coltzan’s face had been.
“Desi!” Kirsche repeated. Desi snapped out of her trance, startled, and walked dazedly to her owner’s side. Fortuna sniffed her ankle and whined curiously. The Lupe bent down to allow her petpet to leap to her shoulder, then straightened up, and, with a last look at Coltzan’s shrine, they moved on.
The pyramids towered over them, providing them with much-needed shade as they wound their way around the streets.
Kirsche didn’t look at the houses, but instead had her face buried in her memo notebook, muttering a number to herself over and over.
Suddenly, she stopped, and Desi bumped into her. They were standing in front of a small wooden Neohome. Beside it was a glorious silver Neohome, but it looked abandoned.
“Here we are,” said Kirsche. “Home sweet home.”
“You built a wooden Neohome in the desert?” asked Sean, raising an eyebrow.
“Hey, better than cardboard,” said Kirsche, walking up to the front door and opening it, making a ‘you first’ gesture to everyone else.
It was completely empty. Bare wooden floors and walls all the way through the entrance hall, to the living room, to the kitchen and dining room, to the bathroom and bedroom on the other side. Even the backyard garden was bare sand.
“Well, at least the house is here,” said Kirsche as the others stared at her incredulously.
“Yeah, but... we moved here from a fully-furnished apartment,” Desi pointed out. “Isn’t this a bit of a... downgrade?”
“Not really,” said Kirsche. “But that’s because...” she paused for effect. “...we get to choose what goes in here! I’ll get started saving up for furniture right away. Don’t worry, Desi, this place will be better than our old apartment in no time!”
“Whatever; till then I guess I’m sleeping on wood.”
“But we’ve been sleeping on the ground for the past week,” said Kirsche. “Except for the time we stayed at the guild, then we slept on sofas. Anyway, um, Sean, do you and Majikn want to spend the night here?”
“Nah, I think we’ll be going back to the trails. Maybe we’ll visit Altador and stargaze,” said Sean. “Thanks for the offer, though. I will come back and take a look when you’ve got this place up and running, though. Till then, see you at the guild.”
“Alright, see you,” said Kirsche, looking disappointed as Sean and Majikn left, Rai fluttering along behind them. He gave a little wave, then flitted quickly after them.
“Don’t worry, Desi,” Kirsche once again reassured her Neopet. “No matter what we do with it, this is home, sweet home.”
“Right,” said Desi, nodding her head.
“Good, glad you understand. Let’s go check out Sakhmet!”
The two Neopians bounded out the door to their new house, rushing across the sands towards the city in the distance.
They were finally, truly, home.
Thanks to email_master_sean for letting me put him and Majikn into this story!