The Day After Lutari Day: Part One
It was the day after Lutari Day, and we were taking the day off to enjoy a trip to the beach. Bannok, my young and eternally curious Kyrii, was beside himself with excitement. One moment he was dashing around the rock pools and exclaiming over every shell and colourful seaweed he found, the other he was paddling at the edge of sea, demanding that I, "Look, Mummy, look! It's up to my knees!" shortly followed by, "It's at my waist! Mummy, it's at my waist! You're not looking, Mummy!"
I waved appreciatively from my seat on the beach towel to assure him that I was indeed watching his impressive foray into the water (and, in fact, keeping quite a close eye on him. Bannok and I lived in Brightvale, and beyond the odd splash in one of the rocky creeks that skirted the forest, Bannok had never been swimming before. I was sure he knew not to go too far out, but – well. I worry too much.) It was a cool, shady day, and the beach was deserted. With his thick fur to keep him warm and the endless energy that small children possess, Bannok wasn't bothered by the chill, but I was happy to stay a bit more wrapped up with the towels and my book. Callum, Bannok's petpet, clearly agreed with me; he was curled by my side with every inch of himself as far from the sand as it was possible to be without levitating above it. I'm not sure the vacana was overly fond of the beach, truth be told.
"Did you see?" Bannok asked, running up towards me. "I went out so far – I bet you could barely see me, I was that far away!"
"I saw," I assured him. "Did you have fun?" I rummaged around the beach bag for another mat for Bannok to sit on.
"Lots! Are you getting the ice cream?"
I paused, and checked my watch. Half twelve... It was a bit early, but we could have lunch now. "I've packed you a sandwich for lunch," I said, laying out the mat.
"But Muuuum, we're at the beach!" Bannok protested.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "And?"
"And beaches are for eating ice cream, everyone knows that!" he said, giving me a look that I'm sure every parent is familiar with. It is equal parts the look of one being denied something entirely reasonable, and one pleading for something they know is really rather outrageous. It hovers just on the edge of put-on hurt with, on a good day, the slightest shine of tears just beginning to gather.
I sighed. Maybe someday they'd invent a faerie ability that rendered you immune to such things, but until then Bannok had me wrapped around his little finger, and he knew it. "Sandwich first, then there's an ice cream for pudding," I said.
"Yay!" The tears were gone in a second, and Bannok bit into his sandwich happily. Callum rolled his eyes, well used to his master's antics. "Hush you," I mumbled at him, unwrapping the tangella slices I'd packed for the petpet. "You'd understand if you ever had kids." Or foals. Whatever baby vacana are called. Callum snorted in disagreement, but took his fruit nonetheless.
There was an easy quiet, broken by various munching sounds as we continued our lunch. I found myself staring blankly out to sea, my mind wandering. As ever, my thoughts turned to Bannok; since his rather sudden arrival into my life, they had rarely had chance to leave him.
I had not planned to adopt a neopet, it kind of just happened. I had not really planned anything, just wandered into Neopia and opened an account without quite realising what I was getting myself into. It hadn't been easy, at first – I was terrified of doing wrong by Bannok, by that tiny ball of blue and white fur that was entirely dependent on me for everything. We had been frequent visitors of the Soup Faerie, without whose kindness and patient sympathy I would most likely have been unable to cope those first few weeks, living in the Neolodge and trying to work out which way was up and how to get around this crazy land.
Now, I considered myself a competent Neopian. There was a lot I still had to learn, and a lot still to see – although I was fairly familiar with the more mainland areas, this was our first visit to Mystery Island, and I'd never been to some of the more exotic places such as Moltara – or even Terror Mountain! But all in all, I was competent. I knew my way around Brightvale, I could put together a decent dinner out of the local cuisine (and had learnt the hard way to keep the windows closed when cooking with faerie food), and for the most part, Bannok and I were doing well.
"Mummy?" Bannok asked, breaking me out of my reverie. "Are you going to eat that, so we can have ice cream?" he said, gesturing at my half eaten, forgotten sandwich.
"Sorry Bannok, Mummy was just thinking," I apologised and resumed eating.
"Well," I said, swallowing a bite of sandwich, "about how big the world is, and about how lucky I am to have such a brave Kyrii like you to live with me in it."
"Muuuum," Bannok said, wrinkling his nose. "You're being silly. And girly."
I laughed. "That's what Mums do, Bannok." At least, that's what I do – I can't speak for the rest of us. Some owners I'm convinced are superheroes in disguise; I have my hands full enough with Bannok and Callum, I can't imagine how people cope with four pets. Or even 20, if side accounts are included!
The rest of the day passed quite quickly; Bannok's ice cream melted all over him and required an emergency bath in the sea to rinse his fur out. He then roped me into building a sand castle with him, getting sand all over himself in the process and needing another dip to clean up afterwards. I carried him up the beach in a towel to try and keep his fur sand-free after that, and stood him up on the rocks to dry off. Despite my best efforts, his feet were still sandy when I came to put his shoes back on, so I put them in the beach bag on one shoulder and carried Bannok in the other arm. He babbled on excitedly for a bit about all the things he'd done and the fact that his sand castle would be there for eternity, but it wasn't long before he was yawning more than talking.
"Go to sleep, sweetie," I said gently.
"But Mum, I want to see the boat!" he protested sleepily.
"I'll wake you up when it comes," I promised, kissing him on the forehead.
"Kay," Bannok mumbled, eyelids already drooping. Within minutes he was fast asleep, his head on my shoulder and his hands balled into fists in my shirt. I resettled him slightly on my hip, smiling softly.
We walked along for a time in silence, Callum trotting contentedly along the rocks beside me. He seemed pleased to be going, and just as determined as ever to avoid the sand, often taking the long way around over the rocky outcrops that lined the beach rather than step down onto it. I knew better than to offer him a lift – the vacana was far too proud to put up with such an indignity.
We were nearly at the end of the beach when Callum stopped. He began sniffing curiously around a particular rock pool, stretching his neck out over the still water.
"Found something?" I asked quietly, mindful of the sleeping pet in my arms. Callum huffed, blowing his long fringe out of his eyes. I began walking back towards him, wondering if someone had dropped something in the pool.
"What is it then?" I said, kneeling down carefully to have a look. The rock pool water was dark but clear, and shallow enough that I could see the various stones and shells nestled in the sand at the bottom. There didn't seem to be anything strange there as far as I could tell. "Are you seeing things, Callum?" I asked. The vacana snorted derisively at me, and I grinned in return.
"Well, come on," I said, levering myself back to standing while taking care not to dislodge Bannok. "I'm not sure how often the boats run back to Neopia Central, but I'd hate to miss the last one." Callum huffed reluctantly, still staring into the lake, but obediently began following me.
I had barely taken a step away from the pool when the water exploded – that's the only word I can use to describe it. Callum skittered sideways, bleating in distress as water splashed in all directions, and I very nearly went over on the slippery rocks trying not to stand on him. Something small and red shot out of the water towards me and clung to my ankle, sharp claws digging into my skin until I thought they might draw blood.
"What –" I started in shock, but I was cut off as my new passenger began wailing, it's surprisingly loud voice rising almost to a shriek as I tried in vain to shake it off. Bannok jolted awake, eyes wide as he flattened his ears down against his head and flailed his arms in fright.
"Mummy, Mummy, what happened?" he yelped, squirming and twisting to try and find the source of the ear splitting noise.
"Bannok, careful!" I pleaded, struggling not to drop him. The small creature on my ankle had wrapped itself so firmly around me that I couldn't put my foot down without standing on it. I hopped backwards, praying to Fyora that Callum wasn't directly behind me and trying desperately to stay vertical. I didn't last long – as the rocks gave way to the beach, I tumbled over backwards and hit the sand hard, instinctively clutching Bannok to my chest to protect him against the fall.
To be continued...