Prigpants and Swolthy: Hats Off to You!
Also by secant
Good day, King Hagan. Your supreme highness, whose benevolent rule has brought such joy to those such as me, in whose very presence I am privileged to bask –
Come on, Prigpants, stop being so goody-goody. Come off your high Whinny.
Well, Swolthy, some of us know the proper way to show respect in front of royalty. As I was saying, your exquisite, honorable –
As I was saying, sire, we ran into a few... problems when filling your order. Yes, yes, I know we assured you that we could get the job done. And we did! We are, after all, the most accomplished pair of tailors in Neovia. But during the delivery... you see... there were some problems...
We lost all the hats.
Well, it’s true.
I was working up to that! Well, sire, I’m afraid it is indeed true. We ran into a streak of bad fortune – which was totally beyond our control – and as a result, we lost the items you ordered. Yes, sire, I know. I know. You – there’s no need to yell, sire. I know that you needed three hundred hats for your new royal uniforms, and yes, we did tell you that we could do it. We spent hours working on them, sire. Countless hours! Such a vast number of hours–
It wasn’t really that long.
Swolthy! He, um, tends to speak his mind. We put a considerable amount of work into the project, and finally had them all finished. So we packed them up and set off from our workshop in Neovia on a path here, to Brightvale. To transport such a large number of hats, we borrowed a large cart from our neighbors and each wore a backpack stuffed full of even more hats. It was... it was really a lot of hats. We set off from our workshop in high spirits, eager to bring our work to you, sire, and receive our payment. Speaking of which, will we... Ah, I see. Of course. Again, sire, no need to yell. It’s probably not good for your blood pressure.
He’s turning really red, Prigpants.
I can see that, you dunce! Just keep quiet! Sire, if you’ll let us explain to you how we lost the hats, maybe you’ll be more understanding of our guiltlessness in the whole endeavor. At first, things were going fine. We were traveling at a good pace, and the weather was fair. So fair, in fact, that we decided to have a picnic lunch. While Swolthy here laid out the food, I took one of the hats out of my backpack to examine... well, frankly, to admire it. I do love to see my own work. But alas, while I was looking it over, a sudden wind sprang up and snatched it from my hands. The hat was blown high into a tree, quite beyond my reach. And, obviously, beyond the reach of this fat–
–this rather hefty individual who accompanied me. But it was just one hat gone. Not a problem. Just one hat! Little did we know that this would be an ominous omen of what was to come.
“Ominous omen”? Really? That’s supposed to sound smart or something?
Well, if you’re so great with words, why don’t you tell the story?
Maybe I will. So there we were, walking along, when out popped two Meerca boys. I thought they were cute things, wearing matching headbands in blue and red. It was obvious they wanted to scare us, but I tell you, I am not the kind to be scared easily! No sir! So I said to them, "Hello little Meercas, don't you know you shouldn't wander out here in these woods alone?" They said something that I couldn't hear, though Prigpants here thought it wasn't funny. But he's always like that, so I took no notice.
Why, I never–
My turn, Prigpants. My turn to talk. Anyhow, those Meercas then turned to me and asked me about the color purple. Apparently they were good at artsy stuff, something about red and blue makes purple, and that's their favorite color and whatnot. Well, I offered to show them the purple hats we made. How can I refuse the youngsters a good lesson in art? Then they kindly informed me my shoe was untied, and when I looked up again, the purple hats were all gone! All thirty! But if you think I'm a fool, listen to what happened next. We hiked past the Deserted Fairgrounds...
All right, Swolthy, that’s enough of your ramblings. I’ll take over from here. After all, I’m sure the king values coherence in a story over... whatever it is your little narrative jaunt possessed. At this point in our journey, we were shaken, but not deterred from our quest. So we were missing a few hats. So what! We could easily get more materials once we arrived in Brightvale and quickly make up the difference. But then we allowed ourselves to get distracted and let our guard down. Have you ever been to the Haunted Woods carnival, sire? No, of course not, that was a silly question. That’s hardly a place for such a regal, majestic pet such as yourself. I’ll explain, then. There’s a certain carnival barker at that place named Sidney, and he can be... quite persuasive. That’s his job, after all: persuading pets to buy his rigged scratchcards. However, some weaker-willed pets have not the brains to tell when they are being played upon, so they take him up on his bets. These stupid, idiotic–
Hey, is that a reference to me?
No, of course not!
Because you were just as eager to buy a scratchcard!
Well, yes, but... Anyway, we were both swindled out of quite a few neopoints. All of our neopoints, actually. But then Sidney offered to “make it interesting.” He said that he took a fancy to our hats, and he’d let us wager the hats in a bet to get our neopoints back. A simple game of chance, he said, and he pulled a coin out of his pocket. Heads, we were refunded all of our neopoints and went on our way. Tails, he got twenty hats. Well, neither Swolthy nor I was thinking clearly at this point: we were both anxious to get our neopoints back, and we were a bit lightheaded from all the cotton candy and caramel apples we had eaten. So we agreed to his bet. The coin was flipped, and– well, I’m sure you can guess that it came down tails. We were forced to part with twenty more hats, and then Sidney skipped off into the woods. Between you and me, sire, I suspect that the coin flip was rigged.
The coin was tails on both sides.
Then why didn’t you say something, you imbecile!?
Ugh. I can’t believe him. Why do I put up with such things? So, sire, to recap: we’d lost one hat to the wind, thirty to those thieves, and then twenty to Sidney. But we still had the Noil’s share left, so we continued on our way.
All right, my turn now. This is serious; I can't find a good word to describe that creepy thing we encountered next. And don’t make a joke about my vocabulary, Prigpants.
I didn’t say anything!
You were about to. It was a... a Brain Tree. The freaky thing had a brain for leaves! Then it spoke to us! It asked us to find out what date “Norma von Something” died on, and if we did, it would give us a reward. Obviously we did not mind a little something extra for our stolen hats, so we—
–We? You mean, you. I flatly refused.
Okay, okay, so I agreed. You should have seen the way Prigpants complained about getting a move on. The cuckoo had no desire for rewards! While he yapped about moving forward, I decided to agree to the Brain Tree's request. But I was in a rut—who knew what date Norma von Something died on? I’m no historian! Apparently, the Tree becomes mad if you don’t answer fast enough, and... well, I placed several hats beneath his trunk to appease him. I saved our lives!
I’ll admit, it wasn’t one of my finest moments. But wait until you hear what happened next.
Do you recall those thieves my comrade mentioned earlier? Those two Meercas? Well, we had the unfortunate pleasure of running into them again. Of course, I had thoroughly chided my partner for his lapse of judgment during our first encounter with them. (Although, to be fair, his shoe really was untied.) But he and I both swore that nobody would ever take advantage of our gullibility in such a way again. Well, we were finally coming out of the Haunted Woods – and not a moment too soon – when we saw something lying in the ditch by the side of the road. I told Swolthy to watch the cart and I went over to investigate. It seemed to be an injured pet lying there. I bent down to help him, but he suddenly jumped up and ran to the cart. That’s when I realized it was one of the Meercas from before! His partner jumped from the branches of a nearby tree and the pair started laughing at us. Evidently, this was another of their tricks to lure travelers away from their wares. But luckily, Swolthy was doing his job (for once) and guarding the cart. I bravely told the thieves that they would not succeed again in their treachery, and they both shrank in fear at the sound of my courageous voice!
No they didn’t.
Shush. Now we were at a standoff. Swolthy and I were standing by our cart, bravely defending our hats. But the two thieves were blocking the road, not wanting to let an opportunity for profit pass them by. The tension was so palpable that you could feel it.
I may not be too good with words, but even I know that’s redundant.
Ignore him, sire, ignore him. The two of us stared the two of them down, but nobody was willing to budge. Suddenly, one of the Meercas pointed to a spot behind us and yelled, “Look over there! It’s the Monoceraptor!” The two of us whipped around to look, and... well, I’m sure you can piece together the rest. When we turned back around, we saw the Meercas running in the other direction, clutching as many hats as they could carry.
Well, it’s not all bad. At least they warned us about the Monoceraptor before it ate us.
Swolthy, there was no Monoceraptor.
Right, because they scared it away!
I don’t know why I put up with him. I really don’t.
Let’s just get back to the story, Prigpants. So we’d left the woods and were walking through Faerieland. By this point, we were both being extremely careful not to lose any more of your majesty's hats! Why, I watched every which way for signs of thieves and trickeries. But I never thought to watch the air! My head hit some invisible shield. Of course, my first reaction was to yell for Prigpants to watch out, and I tackled him to the ground—because naturally, I suspected we were being attacked by a secret force, perhaps one of Sloth's fancy ray things—
And he never once paused to think of a more logical conclusion...
The entire place was under attack, I thought! I quickly shouted for passersby to duck and cover. Yeah, those folks just stared at me like I had a Meepit up my trouser. Then this kind Kacheek came over and whispered that it was just the Hidden Tower. We lost a few hats in the hustle, but hey, what if we were really under attack? Huh?
Yes, that incident was quite embarrassing. If you’ll allow me, Swolthy, I’ll tell this next part. I want to make sure that King Hagan hears the correct version of these events. After our, ahem, “encounter” with the Hidden Tower, we were quickly faced with another pitfall. You no doubt know of the tricks that mischievous faeries like to play on unsuspecting visitors to their land. Well, we fell prey to one such trick. We were enjoying a meal when, out of nowhere, a lovely, mellifluent voice floated down to grace our ears with its words. It told us to approach a nearby glade of trees. Of course, we both followed it, being so entranced by its beautiful tonal qualities.
He jumped up and ran after it instantly and I followed him.
Don’t deny that you were enthralled as well.
I’d very much like to deny that. I’m not as much a sucker for a pretty voice as some pets I could name...
Quiet, you. Eventually, both of us found ourselves in a clearing in some thick woods, surrounded by lovely trees and flowers. Suddenly, the most beautiful creatures imaginable burst forth from the branches. They darted among the trees, their lovely colors blinding us, their enchanting magnificence dazzling our eyes, their sublime beauty–
Some faeries flew out of the trees.
That’s what I was saying! Anyway, these lovely creatures took our breath away–
Took his breath away. I kept my breath right where it was.
–and we fell to our knees at the sight of such beauty.
He’s the only one who did all that nonsense. He can get so carried away by a pretty face.
Well, excuse me if I’m a romantic. The faeries then spoke to us, their chiming voices washing over us in waves of splendor. The whole experience is a blur to me, being so overwhelmed by their grace and loveliness. I don’t know whether minutes passed, or hours, or days; it was as if time had stopped.
Give me a break. They popped out at us, flew around a little, and laughed at us, then flew away.
You have no eye for beauty, Swolthy. Alas, as he said, they left us all too soon. Dazed, we re-gathered our wits and returned to our makeshift camp to resume our meal. But when we counted our hats, we found that twelve were missing. I have no idea what could have happened to them.
I’ll tell you what happened to them! While those faeries distracted us, another gang of faeries must have come in and swiped them from us!
Come now, Swolthy, creatures of such divine beauty could never commit so base an act as theft!
He says he’s “a romantic.” I say he’s just an idiot. All right, let’s keep moving the story along. So we finally reached Brightvale. We passed a shop with dancing smiley faces. Can you imagine? I said to Prigpants, "We’ve got to stop and buy some!" It'll be like a souvenir, you know? So I approached the shopkeeper, a pretty Acara. I wanted to buy a Water Mote. She said it was the last one and that it would cost an extra 500 neopoints! I had no neopoints!
Here comes the bad part... Remember, sire, I had no entanglement in this one!
So then the Acara said she admired the hat I was holding. I wasn't about to be easily fooled this time! I said no way, no how. But then she went on about the magical properties of Water Motes. I got more and more enchanted each second! So when Prigpants wasn't looking... well... heh...
This buffoon traded ten of your hats for a Water Mote! Which melted into a lifeless puddle right afterwards, I may add!
But it was so cute!
Ugh. Well, your highness, at this point, we were almost done with our journey. We only had eighty-some hats left in our cart, but we weren’t about to give up.
“Swolthy & Prigpants: we never give up.” That’s our motto.
It’s “Prigpants & Swolthy,” not “Swolthy and Prigpants.” And we don’t have a motto.
Well, if we did, that’s what it would be.
... Right. But any celebration of the completion of our quest was premature, because we had the pleasure of meeting up with our thieving Meerca friends once more. It was on the road leading to this very castle, in fact. You really ought to increase your security forces, since... ah. Yes, I understand, it’s hardly my place to criticize. Yes. You may feel free to lower your voice at any point.
Let me tell this part, Prigpants.
Absolutely not. Your accounts have been full of nothing but inaccuracies and exaggerations, told in a painfully simplistic style.
And everything you’ve said has been pompous and long-winded, and you’re always trying to make yourself look good!
Enough! We were pulling our cart up to the castle, when suddenly one of the two Meercas jumped out of a bush. We were startled, but immediately took up arms to defend our wares.
“Took up arms”? But we already had arms. We’ve always had arms. Look, I’m waving mine right now!
Ugh, I mean that we had weapons.
Well, if you can call planks of wood weapons.
I can and I do. We held our planks– ... our weapons high, and warned the Meerca not to come any closer. He put his hands up in surrender, and we saw that he was holding one of our hats. We asked him to explain himself, and he started to apologize. He said that he knew it was wrong to steal our hats, but his brother forced him to do it. But now, he said, he’d run away from his brother, and, as a symbol of his reformed ways, he wanted to give us back one of our hats. Of course, we were touched by this moving story.
He looked really, really sorry. His eyes were all teary and everything.
So we put down our makeshift weapons and went towards him. He smiled and said that he was glad that we accepted his apology. We smiled back, and he extended his hand, about to give back the hat.
But he didn’t!
At the last second, he snatched the hat away and ran off giggling. We turned around to see that the other Meerca had stolen our cart while we were distracted, and was running off into the distance as well. It was too late to catch either of them. All the remaining hats, lost.
And it’s such a shame, after the one brother reformed and all.
Do you really not understand what happened? It was a trick!
How do you mean? What did... oh. Oh, I see now. He said... but really... oh.
So there we were, outside your castle gates, with all our hats gone. We started out with three hundred, but not a one remains.
Well, actually, I found one just now folded up in my pocket. I must’ve forgotten I put it there. Here. I’ll just set it right on... there you go.
Ugh, that’s filthy! And so crumpled, and unseemly, and... well, I guess it’s better than nothing. King Hagan, may we present to you your shipment of hats! Well... hat.
Once you brush off the mud and straighten it out, it’s really not all that bad.
Why aren’t you saying anything, sire? Your... your face is turning red again. Are you not happy with our shipment?... Does this mean we aren’t getting paid?
Gimme the brush.
You have your own brush, use that one!
But I dropped it in my paint can!
That’s hardly my fault, is it? Fish it out!
Then my hand will get paint on it. I don’t like getting my hands dirty.
You know that we wouldn’t be stuck here painting his drawbridge if you had just done your job and gotten the hats here, right?
Oh, so it’s all my fault?
Well, mainly your fault.
Come on, Hagan clearly was punishing you. It’s totally unfair that I have to do the painting too.
What are you talking about?! Maybe a few of the lost hats were my fault, but compared to all of the ones you lost...
You’re the one who said we should travel with the hats ourselves in the first place! I wanted to hire a delivery company.
Well, we wouldn’t have needed one if only you had– Yes, your highness. We’ll keep it down. We’re sorry. Yes, we realize that we still have lots of work to do. We’ll get right on it. See what you’ve done, Swolthy?
What I’ve done? You’re the one who started arguing!
Just shut up and paint. And take that crumpled hat off your head. You look like an idiot.
I just hope we get done soon. Because we need to start on our next order.
You’re right. Six hundred pairs of boots for Queen Fyora. But that should be easy enough. After all, what could possibly go wrong?