The Island Bake-A-Thon
This story is dedicated to my pets. Thanks for reading!
"Just a bit of this... and a pinch of that..." Maraqua the Christmas Kacheek stood atop a wooden stool, holding what might be her most famous masterpiece ever. Wearing a pair of yellow elastic gloves and safety goggles, it looked like she had walked out of a chemistry lab and stepped right into a regular Neohome.
"Aaack!" Maraqua spun around to face the bubbly intruder, which happened to be her little sister, Fyora the White Usul. "Fyora, how many times have I told you? Don't interrupt me when I'm in the middle of a baking masterpiece!" She sighed and looked wearily at the test tube (full of butter and milk) in her paws. "Luckily," she hissed, "In spite of you scaring me out of my wits, I didn't spill my culinary concoction."
"Ohhh... sorry." Fyora rolled her eyes and took a seat at the kitchen table, holding the latest issue of the Usuki Monthly Magazine. "But seriously, Maraqua, the Island Bake-A-Thon is two days away. It's not like you should start worrying forty-eight hours ahead of time."
"Says you," Maraqua said. She sighed and poured the test tube mixture into a mixing bowl. Fyora just didn't understand the fact that the Island Bake-A-Thon was the biggest thing to happen in Maraqua's life since Jen, their owner, had bought her the full Neopian Encyclopedia set. In two days, young bakers from all over Neopia would be traveling to Mystery Island and competing in the Island Bake-A-Thon. And Maraqua was one of them.
Dandelion the Faerie Wocky and Sunshine the Yellow Acara popped into the kitchen. They were Maraqua and Fyora's older sisters. "Okay, like, does this skirt make me look fat?" Dandelion spun around in the middle of the kitchen wearing a sparkly lavender skirt.
"Well..." Fyora looked up from her magazine.
Sunshine interrupted Fyora. "See? I told you a billion times. It looks fine. Of course, it would've looked better if you picked out that skirt in periwinkle blue. But hey, that's just me."
"Can you guys please stop barging into the kitchen?" Maraqua asked, walking over to the fridge and pulling out a container of fresh kiwis. "I'm in the middle of baking here, and I can't concentrate when there's a lot of noise."
"Maraqua, just think of us as the crowd at the Island Bake-A-Thon," Dandelion reasoned, pulling a piece of lint off of her skirt. "Trust me, there's gonna be everything but peace and quiet at the competition. Fans screaming, tropical music blaring... so you might as well get used to it now."
"Really supportive, Dandelion," Jen said sarcastically, walking into the kitchen. She was holding a camera.
"What's the camera for?" Sunshine asked, "If you're taking pictures of us, keep in mind that I look better on my right side."
"Actually, I'm taking pictures at the Island Bake-A-Thon," explained Jen, "After all, it only happens once a year."
"Right," Maraqua said quietly to herself. "Once a year."
"Sooo... ummm, how long are we going to stay on this cruise?" Fyora adjusted her Usuki-inspired sunglasses and helped herself to another shrimp from the glass bowl next to her.
"For thirty minutes. Then we'll reach Mystery Island, book a stay at the Grand Mystery Island Hotel, and enjoy the sights for the rest of the day," Jen replied. She was sitting in a lounge chair opposite of Fyora. "Tomorrow, of course, will be the Island Bake-A-Thon."
"Mmmph." Fyora mumbled a reply, her mouth full of shrimp.
Jen scanned the huge deck of the cruise ship, past the relaxing pets and their owners. Wait... was that an ice cream stand?! "Be right back..." Jen jumped out of her lounge chair and walked towards the ice cream stand, trying her best not to hop into a full-out ice cream stampede.
"Oooh, get me a chocolate sprinkle cone!" Fyora called after her, waving her paws in the air. "And don't forget the chocolate syrup!"
"Hey, guys, which recipe name sounds better? Kiwi Apple Tarts, or Apple Kiwi Tarts?"
Dandelion looked over at the Christmas Kacheek who was hunched over her prized recipe book. This was the first thing that Maraqua had said ever since they had stepped onto the cruise ship taking them to Mystery Island. "Ummm... what's the dif?"
"The dif? The 'dif' is that if I don't win this competition, then I'll have to wait until next year to try again!" Maraqua snapped, not even noticing that her comment hadn't answered Dandelion's question at all.
"Sorry..." mumbled Dandelion.
Maraqua sighed and continued, "No, I guess I should be the one apologizing. I'm just really nervous about this competition."
"And I'm nervous because I think my sunglasses don't match my bathing suit," interrupted Sunshine, "Think I should've recoordinated?"
"Totally. But it's okay. Your blue swimsuit really brings out your eyes," Dandelion replied. "And Maraqua, you shouldn't be nervous. I've tried out your Kiwi Apple Tarts... or Apple Kiwi Tarts... well, whatever they're called, and they're really good."
"Yeah, they are," agreed Fyora, "You should tell the judges that they'd better tape their socks on, because your tarts are gonna blow them away." She giggled at her own comment.
Dandelion, Sunshine, and Maraqua exchanged glances.
"Oh, c'mon! It was funny!" insisted Fyora. Once she saw that no one was laughing, she muttered, "Hmm, tough crowd."
"I guess you guys are right," Maraqua admitted. "I shouldn't be nervous over this competition. After all, the whole point of the bake-a-thon is to have fun, right?"
"Umm, well, that's more than what I was thinking," Dandelion said, "but okay, let's go with that!"
"No.... way...! Is that.... Hubrid Nox?!" Sunshine's mouth fell open and she pointed to a lounge chair a few feet away from Fyora's. Sure enough, Hubrid Nox was sipping a Pineapple Breeze and casually flipping through a copy of Evil Plots for Beginners.
"What's he doing on a cruise?" whispered Dandelion, "I thought evil villains were supposed to go around doing... well, evil stuff!"
"Maybe he wanted to crash the Island Bake-A-Thon," Fyora suggested.
"Unlikely," Maraqua whispered, "But whatever you do, don't disturb him. He might-"
"Well, hello, kids," a voice cackled behind them.
Dandelion, Sunshine, Maraqua, and Fyora gasped and turned around. Hubrid Nox stood behind them, his book tucked underneath his arm.
"Man, he's fast," muttered Sunshine.
"Ummm, hi," Fyora said slowly, "M-my name's Fyora..." She paused, thinking of something to say, and the first thing that came to her mind was food. "Shrimp?!" The offer came out forced, but nevertheless, Fyora grabbed a piece of shrimp out of the glass bowl and shook it in Hubrid Nox's face.
"No thanks, I'm allergic," Hubrid Nox said in disgust, slapping the shrimp out of his face. "Listen up, and listen good, because I'm only gonna say this once. I'm feeling surprisingly generous at the moment, so rest assured that-"
"You won't make us sick?" Dandelion interrupted.
"As I was saying before I got so rudely interrupted," Nox continued, glaring at Dandelion, "Rest assured that you guys will reach Mystery Island without a serious disease."
"Serious disease? What's the difference between a regular disease and a serious one?" Fyora bit into a shrimp, then chewed while Maraqua explained the answer.
"Achy Head, Ugga-Ugga, Neoblues, Fuzzy Fungus, Reptillioritus, Doldrums, Jitters, and Spyder Bite - all examples of serious diseases," Maraqua said scientifically, "Basically, a serious disease is a sickness that requires an expensive cure."
"Ohhh," Dandelion, Sunshine, and Fyora said in unison.
"Of course," Hubrid Nox continued in a snobby tone, "That doesn't mean that I'm letting you all off the hook."
"Off the hook? What do you mean? We didn't even do anything!" Sunshine insisted.
Hubrid Nox ignored her. "Hmmm, who shall I choose? Let's see..." He pointed his paw at them in turn as he said, "Sicky, sicky, I'll make a pet sick, now the only problem is, which pet shall I pick?"
"You have to be kidding me," Dandelion muttered under her breath.
Dandelion, Sunshine, and Fyora gasped and saw that Hubrid's paw was pointing directly to... Maraqua!
"What? Me?" Maraqua looked frightened, and she dropped her recipe book on the floor.
"Who else?" Hubrid cackled, "Hmmm, how about Watery Eyes?"
Maraqua's eyes instantly filled with tears, even though she wasn't crying.
"You're gonna pay for that!" Jen came running over, holding a hot fudge sundae in her left hand and a chocolate sprinkle cone in the other.
"What?" Hubrid obviously hadn't expected this.
"Hi-ya!" Jen dumped the hot fudge sundae on Hubrid's head, then watched in triumph as the Chia stomped away muttering about how his cape was easy to stain.
"Jen, what are we going to do? Hubrid gave Maraqua a case of Watery Eyes!" Fyora pointed to Maraqua, who was dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
"C'mon!" Jen signaled them to follow her.
"Okay, just a dab of this around the infected pet's eyes every thirty minutes for a day will cure it," the Chomby nurse said, handing Jen a container of Onion Balm.
"Thank you so much," Jen said to the nurse. She pulled out six hundred Neopoints to pay for the medication, relieved that there was a pharmacy on the cruise ship.
"Did you get the medicine?" Dandelion asked as soon as Jen walked into Room #24 (the room they rented while on the cruise).
"Yep. Maraqua, gently rub the Onion Balm under your eyes for thirty minutes," Jen explained, "After a day, the Watery Eyes will be gone."
"Thanks." Maraqua opened the lid of the Onion Balm.
"Eeew!" they all said in unison as the onion stench filled the room.
"Does the balm come with nose pins?" Fyora asked, pinching her nose.
"I think we have a bigger problem than that," Maraqua admitted, rubbing some balm under her eyes. "If I'm sick, who's going to compete in the Island Bake-A-Thon in my place? If I compete, I'll get tears into the tarts because I can't stop crying!"
"Oooh, good point," Jen said, biting her lip. "I know! One of your sisters can take your place."
Sunshine and Fyora froze in their spots. Dandelion was the only one that stepped out of the line.
"I'll do it!" Dandelion volunteered.
"One problem. You don't know anything about baking!" Maraqua put the lid back on the container and hopped off the bed. "But I guess that can't be helped. C'mon, Dandelion, I'm going to teach you the basics of baking!"
"Sure," Dandelion said, following Maraqua.
Jen switched their exploring the island plans with baking plans. For the rest of the day, Maraqua taught Dandelion how to turn on the oven and heat it to the right temperature. Finally Dandelion was ready to bake her first ever Kiwi Apple Tart. Jen, Sunshine, and Fyora stood by holding fire extinguishers in case Dandelion's baking caught on fire. After a day of hard work, Dandelion was finally ready.
The Island Bake-A-Thon was packed more than ever. Millions to gazillions of pets and owners crowded the benches, causing an eruption when the three bake-a-thon judges arrived. Jhuidah, the Underwater Chef, and Gargarox Isafuhlarg waved to the crowd, then took their places behind the judging table. Six small kitchenettes were placed in front of the benches for the competitors.
"Ummm, Marquee the Christmas Kah-cheek?" An Island Blumaroo walked towards them with a clipboard in hand.
"Oh, you must mean Maraqua the Christmas-" Jen began, but Dandelion interrupted her.
"Dandelion the Faerie Wocky, sister of Marquee the Christmas Kah-cheek," Dandelion said, shaking the Blumaroo's paw, "Pleased to meet you. I'm here to take the place of my sister in the Island Bake-A-Thon. Which kitchenette do I stand at?"
"Oh, ummm... okay." The Blumaroo quickly scratched off something on his clipboard, then directed Dandelion to Kitchenette #5. "Good luck," he said, then left.
"Remember, Dandelion, all the ingredients for the Kiwi Apple Tarts are on this paper," Maraqua said, handing Dandelion a receipt-sized paper with the recipe on it. "Including the secret ingredient. So don't, I repeat, don't lose this recipe."
"Gotcha." Dandelion nodded and placed the paper on the counter. She glanced at the other kitchenettes, scoping out the competition. So far, only one kitchenette remained empty; Kitchenette #3. Two minutes later, Dandelion saw a breathless white Chomby dash behind the kitchenette. "Late, much," Dandelion said.
The Underwater Chef stood up from his seat, holding a megaphone. "Welcome to the annual Island Bake-A-Thon! Me, Jhuidah, and Gargarox Isafuh... Isafuh... oh, whatever his last name is, are more than glad to be here. Before we get this competition on the road, let's introduce our contestants. Standing at Kitchenette #1 is Valerie the Maraquan Aisha. Kitchenette #2; Timmy the Camouflage Meerca..."
Dandelion sighed and impatiently tapped her foot on the ground. "C'mon, already," she muttered under her breath.
"...And remember, it's all about having fun," the Underwater Chef continued.
Dandelion picked up the recipe and looked at it for the first time. On the top, Maraqua had written 'Kiwi Apple Tarts' in her neat handwriting. Dandelion then discovered something she had never known about Maraqua...
"On your marks... get set... GO!" The Underwater Chef swished a red flag through the air, marking the beginning of the bake-a-thon.
"Maraqua marks her i's with squares!" Dandelion concluded. "Man, you don't see that everyday."
"Dandelion, go!" Jen, Sunshine, Maraqua, and Fyora yelled from the benches.
"Huh?" Dandelion looked around and saw that the competition had already started. "Oh... right!" She pulled out all of the pots and pans she could find in the storage compartment of the kitchenette. "Okay... four teaspoons of sugar, a pint of milk, and two egg yolks," Dandelion read from the recipe. She ran over to Mini Fridge #5 and grabbed the necessary ingredients. Dandelion measured out the sugar and poured the pint of milk into a mixing bowl. Then (with a bit of difficulty) she managed to separate two eggs. 'Heat the mixture to fifty degrees for five minutes' was the next step. "This is easy," Dandelion commented, watching as the mixture heated on the oven. Now, for the next five minutes of her life, was the time to watch the other competitors. Kitchenette #1 was having a bit of trouble; Valerie had cracked under the pressure and forgot how to turn on the oven. Kitchenette #2 was a bit of competition; Tommy (Or was his name Timmy?) was quickly beating the egg yolks in his mixing bowl. Kitchenette #3 was...
"What?" Dandelion quickly spun around to see whose baking had caught on fire. It was... hers! Dandelion backed away as two Island Lupes and a Mynci raced over, holding fire extinguishers. Once the fire was gone, Dandelion dashed over to see what had caused the fire. The recipe! It all made sense to Dandelion now. She had placed the recipe down right next to the heating mixture while she was looking at the other competitors, which must have caught on fire due to the oven. "What am I supposed to do now? I don't have the recipe anymore," Dandelion said to no one in particular.
"Dandelion! The recipe is really simple after you finish heating the mixture!" Maraqua called from the benches.
Suddenly it all came back to Dandelion. After heating the mixture, she was supposed to shape the tarts and put them into the oven. Adding slices of apples and kiwis were the finishing touch. "Thanks, Maraqua!" Dandelion smiled at her, then began working again. But she knew that she was forgetting something... "The secret ingredient! I need the secret ingredient before I shape the tarts!" Dandelion looked towards the benches, hoping that Maraqua understood the ingredient dilemma and would help in some way.
Maraqua was hopping up and down on the benches, waving her Onion Balm medication in the air.
"Yeah, I get it. You have to take your medicine now!" Dandelion shouted, wondering why Maraqua wasn't helping her.
"No, not that! The Onion Balm! It's the-" Maraqua began.
"Do the waaave! Do the waaaaave!" Fyora stood up and started waving her arms in the air back and forth, releasing her armpit stench.
Maraqua, unfortunately, was in the stink zone. She fainted right then and there.
"Hmmm, I guess she didn't take her medication in time," Dandelion said, shrugging, "Since Maraqua decided now to take a nap, I guess I'll just have to guess what the secret ingredient is..." She opened the fridge and looked around. Was the secret ingredient cherries? Or maybe it was cinnamon...?
Jen, Fyora, and Sunshine unloaded the suitcases from their trip while Maraqua stood in the center of their living room, holding a sixth place trophy in her paws.
"Let's look at the bright side, Maraqua," Dandelion said hopefully, "If I had actually won the bake-a-thon and gotten the first place trophy, the trophy would be sooo big that it wouldn't even fit into your trophy cabinet! Luckily, I won sixth place, so this trophy is just the right size. He-he, no need to thank me."
"Well, maybe my Kiwi Apple Tarts would have had a chance of winning if you had remembered the secret ingredient," Maraqua replied, showing Dandelion her recipe book. Inside was the Kiwi Apple Tart recipe, right down to the secret ingredient.
Dandelion looked at the recipe book. "The secret ingredient is... no way!"