The Conundrum of Relations: Part One
The first time he had set foot in the Haunted Woods he had been frightened, then lonely, frightened once more after that, and then subsequently happy that he had finally made a true friend. Albeit, the friend he had procured happened to be a ghost, but said ghost encouraged the use of his intelligence! That was more than most others had done for him in his young life.
The red Lenny, called Con, sauntered up to the door of the castle. He checked his appearance: black slacks and a dark blue sweater vest over a white shirt. It was the same outfit he had worn during his first visit to the forest. He then proceeded to knock on the large, wooden door. This had become a near weekly event for him, sometimes more than once a week, and he had not yet told anyone whom he was visiting. Con first assumed that his friend wished for their association to be kept a secret for the fact that he was a ghost and therefore likely to be thought as more malevolent than he actually was. His second assumption, which honestly was more likely, was that his friend was trying to keep up the appearance that he WAS malevolent.
Con was about to laugh in amusement at the thought but was suddenly distracted when he heard the wind whipping from something speeding pass and then leaves rustling from something in the bushes. He considered letting his curiosity coax him into finding out what was in those bushes; however, the door to the mansion opened and none other than Eliv Thade ushered the young Lenny in quickly.
Once the door was shut, the ghostly Kacheek gave Con a look of annoyance. "You're late." That was all he said before turning and heading towards the dining room.
The Lenny laughed lightly and followed after Thade. "I'm sorry. My brother kept me occupied while I was trying to leave. I barely managed to escape without him following."
Thade glanced to Con in question. "You haven't told him that you keep coming here, have you?"
"I wouldn't unless I had prior permission from you. Why do you ask?" The young Lenny frowned a bit in thought. "Do you think he suspects?"
The Kacheek sighed and shook his head. "You would have to answer that one for me, Con. I've never met the lad." He then motioned to the dining table and tea set. "Now sit and tell me of your progress with your conundrums."
Con smiled and did as he was told. Yes, he enjoyed having the infamous Eliv Thade for a friend. The ghost was intelligent, more so than him, and actually appreciated the puzzles the young Lenny put together. Thade even encouraged a possible future career in puzzle making.
"Perhaps we should talk to the Brain Tree," Thade mused after finishing his last sip of tea. "He may always be asking for information, but that is to increase his already developed wealth of knowledge. He is quite the person to have an intellectual conversation with here in the Woods. And, frankly, you could use more friends than just me."
The Lenny smiled sheepishly but nodded. "I can't see any way of not benefiting from this. We might as well."
"Good." Thade stood up and motioned for Con to follow him. "Come. We'll take the back door."
"Your mansion has a back door?" Con laughed. "I'm surprised I hadn't noticed before. I come here so often..."
"Everything has a back door, boy." The ghost gave the young Lenny a wide, toothy grin. "Sometimes physical, sometimes metaphorical. Other times it's actually a window. But back doors always provide another way of solving a problem. Remember that."
Con chuckled again. "Are you saying that your back door is actually a window?"
Thade paused in the middle of his step and turned to glare at the young Neopet. "Boy, only YOU would take MY good advice and turn it into humor... No, it's not a window. It just so happens to be an actual door. It's in the kitchen." The ghost continued to glare but cracked a smile when he saw Con's grin remain stable even under his glare. "At least you are now comfortable around me. I remember your first time here..."
"You gave me advice then as well," Con remarked. They stepped outside into cool forest air. The Lenny followed his ghostly friend closely. "Actually, you've given me advice every time I've come to visit you." He cleared his throat nervously at the Kacheek's questioning look. "N-Not that it's a bad thing. No, in fact it's wonderful. You give more useful advice than even my own family."
"Then here's a bit more advice before we talk with the Brain Tree." Thade stopped and faced Con and gave the Lenny a stern look. "The Brain Tree may be a safer denizen of the Haunted Woods than select others, but that does not mean that visiting him is completely without danger. Be mindful of what I tell you to do and what he may tell you to do. Until you are used to going to see him, I would suggest that you only travel there if I am with you."
Con nodded and followed the ghost up to the very roots of the Brain Tree. The tree fit its name, easily described by its large, pulsating brain. The tree looked straight at Con, opened its mouth, and boomed out its greeting.
"Mortal! I need your help! Fetch me information and I will reward you!"
The Lenny was unsure what exactly to say. "Um..." He glanced nervously to his ghostly friend.
Thade rolled his eyes and then cleared his throat to draw the Brain Tree's attention. "We are not here for quests, Brain Tree."
The tree finally seemed to notice the Kacheek. "Eliv! I did not see you!"
"You always say that when I bring someone with me who is taller than me. Is there a reason for that?"
"Well, you are short for a Kacheek!"
Thade scowled and shook his fist. "Soluy rete! Ohw reda uyo!"
Con found himself laughing, though he did so quietly to not place Thade's anger on himself. The Brain Tree laughed more loudly and then looked to the Lenny again.
"Is this the Lenny you told me about?! The one who makes riddles?!"
The Kacheek grumbled quietly and looked at Con. "Droneticu syoefurl..."
Con nodded and looked to the tree. "I'm Con! Nice to meet you!"
"I am the Brain Tree!" The tree swept out an arm and shook a bark covered hand with the Lenny's feather covered one. "Eliv has told me much about you! How are your riddles coming along?!"
"My conundrums? I'd like to say wonderfully. But, of course, Mr. Thade is the only one I show my conundrums to, so I'm not sure how anyone else may think of them."
"Let me hear one, boy! I will help judge!"
The Lenny tapped his beak in thought. He glanced at Thade for a suggestion. The Kacheek leaned over and whispered. "Perhaps the fifteenth one you asked me?"
Con nodded in agreement and looked to the tree again. "Two kings of Sakhmet from history were King Galat-Ra the Lupe and King Hephaes-Ru the Kacheek. Galat-Ra died 120 years after Hephaes-Ru was born. Their combined ages when they died was 100 years. Hephaes-Ru died in the year 40 B.N. In what year was King Galat-Ra born?"
The Brain tree crossed his arms and began to think. "Am I allowed to ask one of my questers?!"
"That's cheating, Mr. Brain Tree!"
"Very well!" The tree continued to think and then held up a finger in triumph. "The year 20 BN!"
The Lenny clasped his hands and nodded. "Yes! Good!"
The Brain Tree grinned. "And you have other types of 'conundrums', correct?! You are some type of conundrum wizard then! Perhaps you should even consider magic lessons! Become a real wizard! Get a hat and robes and look the part!"
Con laughed and Thade smiled and rolled his eyes. "You really think so?" Con asked.
"Of course! Maybe you can get clothing in similar colors to the ones you are wearing! Maybe add stars!"
"Oh, now you're just being silly," Thade interrupted. "Provide the boy with good advice, not fashion tips."
"Why can't I do both?!" The Brain Tree smirked.
"You don't even wear clothes!"
"I am a tree! The most I can wear is a long scarf!"
The Lenny began laughing again. He clamped his beak shut under Thade's glare, but continued to smile in amusement. The conversation between the three of them continued on well into the day. Come mid-afternoon, Thade and Con finally bid farewell to the tree and started their short trek back to Thade's castle.
"What a nice fellow," Con commented. "I never laughed so much in one conversation."
"He is a sap, if don't mind the unintentional pun." Thade sighed and pursed his lips. "But, unfortunately, he is one of the better people to introduce you to in the forest. Sophie is not too friendly to outsiders, the Esophagor makes for poor company, and many other Neopets in the Woods merely make conversation if it's for business. Everyone else, I'm not too certain if you would like to meet. Some are dangerous, but others are just eccentric, even for me."
Con smiled. "That must be saying something then, considering things."
"Insults in jest are still insults. But you amuse me, so I will let it slide." Thade became quiet for a moment to muse a point. "Hmm, but perhaps the Brain Tree is right. You may have what it takes to be a 'conundrum wizard'. Maybe you should look into that. Do you know anyone who teaches magic?"
"My uncle may know a few. I could ask him."
"Very well. If not, I could take you to meet Edna. That wouldn’t guarantee that you would be taught, of course, but that more of a final option."
Con nodded. "Thank you, again. I really appreciate-..." He trailed off as he something run past him at a great speed again. "What on Neopia...?"
Thade narrowed his eyes. "Didn't you once say that-?"
The young Lenny did not get to hear the rest of the Kacheek's words. He was picked up and carried away, deeper into the forest.
To be continued...