The Explorer: Part One
The Terror Mountain sky was bluish gray and snowflakes began to fall. Crystal shivered. She pulled a blanket tight around her and continued reading her book. Even though it made her cold because her cabin didn't hold much warmth, Crystal loved it when it snowed. It wouldn't be snowing in Happy Valley yet because Crystal lived very high up on the mountain. Terror Mountain was beautiful in the winter.
Crystal heard a high-pitched whistle coming from the kitchen, reminding her that her tea was ready. The blue Shoyru got up from her cozy place on the couch,walked into the kitchen and off the stove. She took a breath to inhale the steam and the warmth of it gave her comforting shivers.
Just then, Crystal heard a knock at the door. She peeked through the window and saw five young children standing outside. There was a Lupe, an Acara, a Bruce, a Grundo, and a Kougra. She opened the door just when the snow was beginning to fall a little harder.
"Mi-miss Cr-Crystal?" the young Lupe said.
"Yes, this is Crystal," she told him.
"Oh my gosh! Crystal the Explorer, Crystal?" the little Bruce asked in awe.
"Yes," Crystal replied.
"I told you she lived here, dummy!" the Acara said to the Bruce.
"Let me introduce myself," the Kougra butted in, "my name is Jenny. Our parents have been telling us bedtime stories about you."
"Would you mind telling us a few stories?" the Grundo asked.
"Sure," Crystal replied, "I just made tea."
"I love tea!" the Bruce exclaimed.
"Great! Come on in and make yourselves at home," Crystal said warmly. " I'll get the tea and start a fire in the fireplace."
Jenny and the four other young Neopets wandered into her living room and sat down on the sofa as Crystal went into the kitchen.
"I am sitting on Crystal the Explorer's couch!" the Acara said.
"I know!" the Lupe answered excitedly.
The Shoyru explorer came back into the room with six cups of tea.
"You know, Anshu of Shenkuu gave me this tea as a thank you for helping him," Crystal told them as she lit the fire.
"No way! You have to tell us that story!" the Acara said enthusiastically.
"First things first. What are your names?" Crystal asked.
"I'm Toby," the Grundo answered.
"My name is Anna," the Acara said proudly.
"I... am... uh... Sam," the Lupe stuttered.
"And I'm Mandy!" the Bruce said loudly.
"You all have lovely names," Crystal told them.
Anna smiled shyly.
"NOW can you tell us about how you helped Anshu?" Toby the Grundo asked impatiently.
Crystal sat down and looked at him. "Now, don't you think we should start at the beginning, when I became an explorer?"
"Ya!" Jenny the Kougra exclaimed.
Crystal began, "Okay, back when I was about your age, I lived in a place called Neopia Central. It was rather hot in the summer, but very rainy in the fall. I loved it when it rained. I would always stare out my window..."
Fifty-Eight Years Earlier...
The sun was about to go behind the mountains when a heavy, gray cloud moved in front of it. The cloud covered up most all of the sky and it began to rain hard. Crystal sat in front of her window, watching the drops of water strike the glass. She heard loud thunder above her and saw flashes of lightning in the distance.
The young Shoyru got up from her seat. She walked across the room to her bed, lied down and closed her eyes. She listened to the sound of the rain hitting the roof. Pit, pat, pit, pat. She sighed, finding it very relaxing. Pit, Pat, Pit, Pat, BANG, BANG! Crystal opened her eyes. Although she thought it was just hail or thunder, it scared her a little bit. Bang! Bang! There it was again. Only this time she realized it was coming from outside her door.
"Hello?" called a voice.
"Hi, sorry. You can come in, Mom," Crystal called back. Her mom opened the door.
"Sorry, I thought your knocking was the storm," Crystal told her.
"I understand. You left your bottle of sand outside again," Crystal's mom told her.
She quickly sat up in bed and took the bottle from her mom who had held it out to her. The cork was still damp from being in the rain.
"Thanks," Crystal said.
"You know, if you keep leaving it outside, it will eventually get ruined," her mom lectured.
"I know," Crystal replied, feeling a little bad.
Her mom left the room, closing the door behind her. Crystal brushed off some dirt that had stuck to the outside of the bottle. She then clutched it to her chest and lied back down. Crystal closed her eyes once more. But this time she closed her eyes not to take in the sound of the rain, but to remember the day she got her blue bottle of sand. She had gotten it two years before when she went to Mystery Island with her family. They had gone to the beach, on Tiki Tours, to shops and to other tourist sites on their trip--but that's not what Crystal looked forward to. She had been, what she thought was, patiently waiting to go to the last place on their trip: The Tiki Tac Tombola.
Crystal knew that all of her friends would envy her for meeting the Tiki Tac Man himself. After all, he was the mysterious man who gave out free prizes everyday to Neopets from all around Neopia. Everyone knew who he was and what he generously did every day, even if they had never been to Mystery Island.
When she approached the famous shack, she felt a surge of excitement and nervousness go through her body. This was it! She was finally here. Crystal waited in line, watching Neopets of all kinds file through. One by one she got closer to the front of the line. When she finally got there, after what seemed like days of waiting, she saw the Tiki Tack Man. He was wearing his red island shirt like always, along with his flip flops and tiki mask. His arms and legs were the only thing showing his true skin color, a dark shade of tan. A thought ran through Crystal's head. Was The Tiki Tack Man the only man in Neopia? She shook her head to clear the thoughts in her mind as she stepped up to the box full of tickets. Crystal reached her shaky hand into the box, pulled out a green ticket, and handed it to the famous man who stood in front of her.
"Sorry, this is not a winning ticket," he announced as he threw the ticket away.
Crystal turned away, tears welling up in her eyes. She couldn't remember the last time she had been so disappointed. She wiped the tears from her eyes, about to leave the shack, when all of the sudden she felt a tap on her shoulder. Crystal turned around. She saw the six-foot-tall man towering over her.
"But you get a Booby Prize!" the Tiki Tack Man finished.
Crystal's expression went from a heavy frown to a huge smile in seconds. The Tiki Tack Man handed her a corked bottle full of blue sand. She quickly and excitedly ran to show her parents what she had won. It didn't matter to Crystal what she got. What mattered was the memory that stuck with her forever. She realized on their way back to Neopia Central that she forgot to thank The Tiki Tack Man. So, Crystal decided to herself that the next time she traveled to Mystery Island, she would thank him.
Crystal opened her eyes as she heard her dad calling her for dinner. She sat up, put the bottle of sand on her night stand and went to go eat dinner.
58 Years Later...
Crystal glanced at the bottle of blue sand sitting on her coffee table.
"So did you ever get a chance to thank The Tiki Tack Man?" Mandy the Bruce asked.
"Now, now, Mandy. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You'll just have to wait and see," Crystal calmly replied.
"I know," Mandy said in a pout-like tone.
Just then, the snowfall turned into a blizzard-like storm. One of the windows in the front of the room blew open because Crystal forgot to lock it earlier when the sun was up, which made it warm with a cool breeze outside. Toby the Grundo and Sam the Lupe quickly sprang to their feet and ran to the window. Together, they used all the strength in their little arms to close and lock the window.
"Thank you, Sam and Toby," Crystal said to them.
They smiled and went back to their seats. Jenny the Kougra shivered, shaking the snow from her head that had blown in from the open windows. Crystal handed her a soft blanket, and continued.
"The next day, the rain clouds had cleared. The ground outside was moist and the leaves still had droplets of water on them..."
58 Years Earlier...
There's nothing like the smell of rain, Crystal thought to herself. It was just then when she realized it was morning. Her eyes shot open. She jumped out of bed and ran to her closet. Crystal quickly threw on a shirt, pants, and jacket. She grabbed her bottle of sand and ran down the stairs. Crystal grabbed the handle to the back door when her mother came into the room. "Hold it," her mother said, "where are you going in such a hurry?"
Crystal turned around slowly, as if she had been caught.
"It's not raining anymore and I want to be able to play before it starts again," she explained.
"Crystal, there are no rain clouds anywhere nearby. I think you have time for breakfast," her mom told her.
Crystal sighed and let go of the handle. She walked over to the table and sat down.
"I'm making a carrot and pea omelet!" her mom said. Crystal smiled, as it was one of her favorites.
When she was about done, her dad came in the door. He had just returned from work in The Neopian Bazaar in the Fine Furniture store. He kissed them both on the top of the head and began taking off his coat and hat.
"How was work today?" her mother asked.
"It was fine. Rather busy actually," he replied, as he walked out of the room.
Crystal finished her last bite and stood up from her chair. She, once again, grabbed her bottle and put her jacket back on. She quietly crept over to her dad's hat and hid it under her clothes. Even though he would always tell her not to take it, she would anyway because wearing it while playing made it a lot more fun. Crystal quickly thanked her mom for breakfast and ran out the door. She went into her "cave" made of soggy old boxes and sat the "priceless treasure" of bottled blue sand on the "stone pedestal" chair in the middle. She set the real booby traps she had made, then walked away because it was all set up. She walked to the other end of the backyard and turned around to face her fort. She looked down to the ground as she placed the hat on her head. Crystal then began to sneak toward it. Her mom was watching from inside, seeing how Crystal was so observant, yet she was getting caught in her own booby traps. Her mom was amused that even though Crystal did this every day, she never got bored or tired of it. Her dad walked back into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of juice. He then walked over to the window to join her mother's gaze.
"Didn't I tell her not to wear my hat?" Crystal's dad asked in a somewhat amused tone.
"Every day," her mom replied.
As Crystal made it into the fort, a group of kids walked by her house. Curious who it was, she ran out of the fort and around to her front yard. Just her luck, it happened to be the neoschool bullies, a Grarrl, Kyrii, and Chia. To avoid problems, she attempted to sneak back into the backyard unnoticed.
She turned around to see that the red Grarrl was talking to her. He was the leader of the group.
"H-hi, Patrick. Wh-what are you doing around here?" Crystal replied nervously.
"Just hanging," the Kyrii replied. "Still playing your stupid adventurer games?"
"They aren't stupid!" she protested.
"What? Do you really think you're going to be an explorer?" the Chia asked.
They called themselves "The Three Pack". No one was sure why, but they were often seen drinking Neocola.
"Yes. Yes, I do," she said proudly.
"Ha ha. Yeah, right," Patrick the Grarrl said. "Let's chase her!"
Only trying to be mean, they began running in her direction. Scared out of her mind, Crystal began running as fast as she could into her backyard. With them being close behind she dived into her fort. Woosh! Woosh! Woosh! She heard the noises but ignored them. As she landed she squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the impact of the bullies. Crystal was in tears. What was seconds felt like hours but they never seemed to come. So, she opened her eyes and looked around. All was normal, so she stood up and peaked outside, still trembling.
They were nowhere to be seen. And her parents were no longer in the kitchen. Crystal slowly walked out, as something hanging above her touched her head. She jumped, and ran back into her fort. She peeked out once more, this time looking up. Crystal saw the Grarrl, Kyrii, and Chia all dangling by their feet above her. They had been caught by one of her booby traps! Crystal began laughing. So hard in fact she fell to the ground and started rolling around.
"Let me down from here!" the Grarrl demanded.
Crystal got herself to stop laughing and said, "Are you sorry?"
The Chia scoffed and said, "No!"
"Okay," Crystal replied and began to walk away.
"Wait! We're sorry!" the Kyrii called.
The two others both agreed, clearly so they could get down. Although without looking back or saying a word, she went inside, the Three Pack still hanging by their feet.
Crystal watched from her bedroom window as her dad cut them each down from their hanging positions.
"Knock, knock," Crystal's mother said when she entered the room.
"Oh, hi, Mom," she replied while she turned her chair to face the doorway.
"So, what exactly happened today?" her mother asked.
"I heard voices in the front yard, and when I saw who it was, it was the Three Pack," Crystal told her. "They said my games were stupid and that I would never be an explorer."
"Oh," her mom replied. She expected Crystal to go on, but she said nothing. "So because they teased you, you lured them into your traps?" her mom said sarcastically.
"Of course not. They chased me into the backyard and got themselves caught!" Crystal exclaimed. Her mom began to giggle, trying to keep herself from laughing as she played the scene through her head.
"I see. Crystal," her mother began to tell her, "never let anyone tell you who you can, and cannot be. If you want to be an explorer, then be one. And don't let anyone who teases you, bother you."
"Thanks mom," Crystal replied. She then gave her mom a big hug.
58 Years Later...
"And my mom was right," Crystal told them, "I followed my dream and here I am."
"Wow!" Jenny exclaimed.
"Neopets always tease me on how short I am," Toby said to Crystal.
"You should be proud of how short you are. It makes you unique, Toby," she explained to him.
"Okay," he replied with a nod.
"What happened next?!" Anna the Acara asked eagerly.
"Well, not much happened for some time. I was in my last year of Neoschool when all of my backyard games came to good use..."
48 Years Earlier...
She turned around just as her friend caught up to her.
"Hi, Lura," she replied.
Lura was a blue Pteri. They had been best friends for the past six years.
"Crystal, if you're not busy, do you want to come over to my house?" Lura asked.
"I have to pick up some neopoints from the bank for my mom," Crystal said, "but then I can. Would you like to join me?"
"Sure!" Lura replied.
Crystal slung her backpack over her left shoulder. They hooked arm-to-wing and began to walk off the Neoschool grounds.
They walked by the Neolodge where Neopets went in and out with their suitcases, then by the shops, and the Money Tree where Neopets waited eagerly for Neopoints and items to appear at its roots. Then finally they made their way to The National Neopian Bank. Normally this was a busy time of day for the bank with Neopets filing in and out at a steady pace. But this time there was no one. Not a single one. And it was eerily silent.
"Is the bank closed today?" Crystal asked Lura.
"I didn't think so," her friend replied with a raise eyebrow.
"What is going..."
Before Crystal could finish her sentence, the banks doors flew open and The Meerca Brothers ran out with big bags of Neopoints in hand. And before she knew it, they had disappeared into the woods. The two stood in awe as the Skeith banker burst out the doors from inside.
"Thieves! Stop!" he yelled. But they were long gone.
"I think the bank will be closed for a while," Lura said.
They made their way back to Crystal's house. When they got there they turned on the TV and switched it to the news. "Breaking news! The National Neopian Bank was broken into today by The Meerca Brothers. They got away and took every Neopoint that was in the bank. No one knows where their hideout is. Until the Neopoints are safe again, the bank will be closed.
"In other news, asparagus prices have sky rocketed!"
Crystal turned off the TV and looked at her friend.
"Do you know what we have to do?" Crystal asked her friend.
"Yeah, we have to tell my mom that the asparagus prices went up! She was planning on buying some today," Lura replied.
"No. Lura, we have to tell my dad that we witnessed the robbery!" Crystal explained.
"Oh... Okay," Lura said. She smiled as if she was a little embarrassed that she hadn't thought of that before.
"My dad gets done at work in fifteen minutes," Crystal said, "we can meet him there."
"I'll get my bag." Lura nodded.
Crystal and Lura got to his work just as the employees began to spill out of the shop. Her dad was one of the last Neopets out, and when he saw her he quickly walked over.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Dad, did you hear about the bank?" Crystal replied with a question.
"Yes Crystal. It's all over the news," he said.
"We witnessed the robbery!" Crystal cut in.
"You did?!?" he asked, surprised. "Tell me exactly what you saw."
"I was just going to the bank for Mom..." said Crystal.
"When the Meerca Brothers burst out of the National Neopian!" Lura butted it.
"A few moments later the banker followed. But by then the Meerca Brothers had already escaped into the woods," Crystal finished.
"Did you see where exactly they went?" her dad asked.
"No," Crystal replied with a saddened look on her face.
"Shouldn't we tell someone?" Lura asked.
"Unless you know where they went, I'm afraid your story won't help," Crystal's dad explained.
"But we saw them go into the woods! That's something!" Crystal argued.
"Crystal! I'm sorry but that's not enough. The woods are too big. It would be hopeless," he told her. "I'll see you at home."
Lura turned to Crystal as her dad walked away. "Sorry, Crystal. We tried," Lura said.
"No. This can't be it. We saw where they went. I... I won't give up." Crystal said.
"I know how you feel. But what else can we do?" Lura asked.
Crystal looked sad for a moment, then she began to think. Crystal took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and said, "I will go after The Meerca Brothers."
"What! Are you crazy?" Lura replied.
"No, I'm not. I've been training for this since I was little. And I'm going to show that it wasn't for nothing. That my games weren't stupid and that what we saw was enough." Crystal explained.
"But Crystal!" Lura exclaimed.
"Lura, will you please trust me on this?" Crystal asked.
Lura looked at her for a moment before speaking. "Okay, fine... But PLEASE be careful."
"I will be," Crystal replied. "You're such a good friend."
48 Years Later...
"You were so brave!" Toby said.
"Thank you," Crystal replied. "And I didn't even know what was yet to come." Crystal poured more tea into Toby's cup.
"What DID come next?" Jenny asked.
"Well..." Crystal started again.
48 Years Earlier...
Crystal returned to her house and began packing her backpack. She grabbed some clothes, food, a notebook, a map, a telescope, a lantern, and her bottle of sand, which still lay beside her bed. Crystal crept downstairs. She was about to open the door when she spotted her dad's hat. She quickly grabbed it and headed out. Crystal walked past Lura's house, where her dad worked, then stopped at the National Neopian and stared into the woods. She knew that there was no turning back, and that it would be dangerous. But something had to be done. Thousands of Neopians were sitting in their homes with their fortunes missing and no one was doing anything about it. Crystal took one last deep breath before beginning her adventure.
The brightest star had just risen to its highest point in the sky. The woods were dark and the wind whistled through the trees. Crystal grabbed her shoulder straps and swallowed nervously. She then turned on her lantern and began to walk.
Her lantern helped, but she still couldn't see much around her. She walked for hours, then lay down next to a big gray rock to sleep. When she woke, the sun was high in the sky. Crystal looked around. The woods were beautiful! Big green trees, flowers of all colors, soft patches of grass, trickling streams, fresh air, and an amazing blue sky. She had no idea how great the woods were. It was too dark the night before, and she had only been in the woods once before, when she was little. Her dad had taken her camping, but she was so little that she hardly remembered it.
Crystal pulled an apple out of her pack and began to eat. She wondered if anyone had noticed that she was missing, and if so, if anyone had gotten Lura to talk. Lura was a rather trustworthy friend, but Neopets had been known to get secrets out of her. Crystal finished her apple, pulled out her compass, and continued on her way. She walked for many hours more, and with each step she was closer to finding The Meerca Brothers hideout! Yet it all looked the same and she felt like she hadn't made any progress at all. She kept going because she was on an important mission that no one else seemed to care about.
The sun began to fall again, Kreludor taking its place. Crystal felt a drip of water on her face. Then a drop on her wing. Only moments later it began to pour. The trickling streams quickly turned into fast moving rivers and the trees moved wildly like a dance against the rain. Crystal quickly put her backpack over her head and ran underneath a tree. The sun was almost completely down now. Crystal had to find a dry place to sleep, and the tree did not shade her from all the rain. She quickly looked around. Then, she spotted a hollowed out log across the upcoming clearing. She darted across and briskly crawled into the log, which was completely dry on the inside. She closed her eyes and fell asleep to the sound of the rain.
By the time she woke up, the rain had stopped and the rivers had decreased to a flowing stream. The smell of rain was in the air and the grass was a rich green color, still wet from the night before. Crystal had a whole adventure ahead of her, not knowing what was in store...
To be continued...