The Mystery of the Maraquan Ball: Part Three
"I hate riddles! This is worse than the Lenny Conundrum!" Lady complained.
"Well... I think the first part is pretty self explanatory," Grey answered as they entered the chocolate shop.
"Don't be a snob. Not all of us are continuously spoiled with new books," Lady answered haughtily.
"No, some of us are pampered, perfumed, and sent to the Neolodge for spa days," Grey said and raised an eyebrow at her sister. "Unis have horns," she said and waved her head from side to side to illustrate the point. "The head waitress at Kelp is a blue Uni. It's just like our earlier plan to sneak in as part of the catering staff. As a side note, it kind of creeps me out that your mystery Neopian thinks the same way we do."
Lady nodded and paid for several different types of gummy candies and chocolates. She had decided to splurge and buy Feather a little bit more than necessary since they'd made a small, unexpected fortune thanks to Todd. She hoped the gift would soften Feather up, at least a little.
"Okay, what about the rest of that first part," Lady asked as they sat down at one of the outdoor tables. Todd turned circles round her feet and nibbled at the bits of tea leaves that still clung to his fur.
"Well... the only boat I know of is the one that runs from Mystery Island. Remember when Mom took us on that island tour and you fell over the railing because you were trying to see your own reflection in the water?" Grey batted her eyelashes innocently at Lady.
"It makes sense," Lady replied, completely ignoring Grey's prodding. "Because we don't know who this person is... and it's called Mystery Island."
"Good, you got the heavy-handed bit," Grey said and ducked as Lady lobbed a gooey snack at her. "So we just need to convince Mom to take us to Mystery Island tomorrow... I think we can bribe her with all this chocolate."
"Plus she'll be really pleased that we earned back the 5,000 neopoints she lost to the first mutant Kad," Lady added and scooped up Todd. "Let's go. We're got a long way to walk back and I want to make sure we catch Mom before she gets too far into her nightly writer's funk to listen to us."
Back at the house, Lady and Grey emptied their bag of spoils onto the kitchen table where Feather was busily scratching away at what looked like a grocery list. Golden neopoint coins and various flavors of Nimmo Bites fell out of the bag and mixed together on the table in one giant pile of colorful goodness. Feather squealed in delight and then immediately looked suspicious.
"What did you do. I swear if you set fire to anything-"
"No, Mom, nothing like that!" Lady answered hastily. "Todd was a bad petpet and the coffee shopkeeper paid us to take him outside." She scratched the petpet's head affectionately.
"Oh," Feather answered and plucked one of the gummy sweeties from the pile. "So he does have a purpose! And is that tea I smell...?" She leaned close to the kadoatie and took in a deep breath. "He smells delicious! Can I brew him?"
Todd let out a hiss and Lady indignantly said, "Of course not! But you'll be happy to know that tea seems to negate the mutant smell."
Feather chuckled and shook her head. "Well, alright then. Wonderful. I suppose you can officially keep him. Welcome to the family, Todd."
Todd let out a relatively nice wail compared to his usual antics and grinned toothily at her, which made Feather shudder and turn her attention back to the pile of chocolates and gummies.
"We were thinking... maybe you could take us on the Mystery Island tour boat again?" Grey looked at her mother hopefully.
Feather snorted. "What, and risk having to rescue Lady from literally drowning in vanity a second time? Fat chance. We can go to Mystery Island if you want, but we are not getting on that boat again." She dipped her quill in ink and began scratching on her notepad with an air of finality.
Lady was about to argue, but Grey shook her head and gestured with her eyes that they should head back to their room. They could sneak onto the tour boat when Feather wasn't paying attention.
"Okay, but I want to visit the Tombola man. Rumor has it that he's found some sort of way to powder codestones and use them as a facial mask..." Lady grumbled and she and Grey retreated from the kitchen.
Todd stayed behind, having formed a shaky alliance with Feather. He had decided that it would be more fun to sit under the table and take occasional swipes at Feather's long red hair than listen to Grey and Lady talk nonsense in the bedroom. Besides, Feather drank a lot of tea and Todd was always hopeful that she might give him a cup or two. Or at least a sugar lump. There is nothing more puzzling than the mutant kadoatie's inherent, unconditional love for sugar cubes.
"Do you think I should put out another hit about this?" Lady asked once she and Grey were upstairs in their loft. "I'm thinking about just posting that entire riddle."
"I don't know..." Grey said. She was pondering what their mystery informant would think about it. "I don't think our secret spy person would like us parroting everything he or she wrote. Plus, we don't want to tell them what we're up to. They might decipher that we plan on sneaking in as caterers if we broadcast that riddle. Someone could tell the Kelp staff and then our entire plan would be ruined. I think we should keep it quiet."
"Good point. What if we just put the last part? One of my readers might be able to figure it out and help us. Or at the very least, our fellow will know that we're taking the note they wrote seriously."
"Okay," Grey agreed and watched as Lady typed out a new hit.
Lady wants to know: what do you make of this riddle? I have some juicy gossip about Nabile... The first person to make sense of this can have the tidbit all to themselves.
I only tell what truth I know
The latest fashions aren't just sewn.
Don't look for me; you'll just waste time
Stone towers always collect the most grime
I'll give you a hint- it's related to the Maraquan Ball. Don't be confused, loves. It's all a part of the game.
"That's not going to make much sense to the average reader," Grey noted.
"You want to write it?" Lady retorted. "I don't know how to word it without giving too much away."
"It's fine. We don't want to alert any of the socialites attending the ball anyway. Or the Kelp employees. Our goal is to let the mystery person know we received their note, and that's it."
"LADY!" Feather bellowed from the kitchen.
Lady let out a scared peep and flew from the loft down the hall at a breakneck speed. When she arrived in the kitchen, she was surprised to see Todd perched on Feather's shoulder giving himself a bath. She giggled and scratched the Kad's ears.
"He's licking... his breath smells like the rubbish dump at noon on a sunny day," Feather cringed. "He licked my ear a second ago. When I tried to move him, he put out his claws."
Lady chuckled and shrugged. "Maybe if he drank some tea..."
Feather groaned and said, "Fine..."
Immediately the mutant kadoatie put his tongue back in his mouth and began kneading Feather's shoulder.
"Oh, that's quite nice actually. I wonder if I could bribe him into doing that regularly..." Feather mused and went to the Fire Faerie Stove to warm up some water. "You're going to like Earl Grey, because I like Earl Grey," she told Todd, who swayed to and fro as she moved around the kitchen, sitting on her shoulder like a weewoo on a branch. "Only the classiest kadoaties drink Earl Grey Tea."
Lady rolled her eyes and went back to her bedroom. She and Grey made sure to pack the spare fish bowls for aquatic petpets that used to have and a thick roll of strong tape. It wasn't perfect, but it was all they had in regards to ways of keeping seawater at bay during their journey to the Maraquan Ball. Right before they went to sleep, Lady checked her petpage only to see that none of her readers had managed to crack the riddle. A few requested that she share more of what she knew, but she resisted. It was hard to deny her devoted readers any shred of knowledge that she had, but Lady resigned herself to knowing that she could provide them every last scandalous detail after she and Grey returned. They went to bed early, excited for the possibilities that their trip to Mystery Island the next day held.
To be continued...