A Study in White
They stared. Some in shock, all in puzzlement. A few were baffled, and many didn't know what to make of it. A couple even closed their door and reopened it again, in the hopes that they were imagining things, but alas, to no avail. Several neighbours looked to each other for some sense of what was happening, but no one knew how to explain it.
For a white mass had descended and covered Neovia.
Old Mr Wiggins, the town's eldest Acara, poked at the mass with an umbrella (at the urging of his neighbour Mrs Darcy, a Zafara who was very concerned about the well-being of her precious Gathow, which roamed the streets at night). When the umbrella remained intact, Mr Wiggins declared it safe, and word quickly spread. Within the hour, the town square's bells tolled loudly eight times, signalling an emergency town meeting. Neovians flocked anxiously to the town hall (stepping cautiously) in the hopes that the Mayor had an answer to the extraordinary incident which had befallen the town. Wooden chairs scraped the well-worn floor as the townsfolk seated themselves in front of the Mayor's podium. The sound of nervous chatter echoed in the hall as everyone was trying to share their ideas about what had happened while they waited for the Mayor to start the meeting. Several minutes later, the Mayor rushed in, with his harried-looking Kacheek secretary rushing behind him.
"Order! Order!" the Mayor yelled from the podium, banging his gavel in an effort to quiet the crowd that had risen to their feet and were demanding answers.
"Are we under attack?" "Is this one of Sophie's spells gone wrong?" "Did the Crumpetmonger's custard explode?" "IS THIS AN OUTBREAK OF A NEW FORM OF SNEEZLES???"
"No – if you'll let me explain – hang on, I'll get to that in a minute – yes, we've evaluated – " the Mayor began, shouting as loudly as he could over the townsfolk. Realizing that the meeting was turning unproductive (and that the Mayor would probably lose his voice), Frederick, the secretary, stepped up and made a screeching whistle, which silenced the crowd.
"Thank you," the Mayor said, nodding to his trusty aide. "Now, if you'll kindly let me explain – ahem, please sit Mrs Elliot, I'll answer questions at the end – then we can start to sort things out." He paused, making sure that he had everyone's attention.
"As you may be aware, sometime in the late evening or early morning hours (we're not quite sure which), a strange substance descended on our town. As of this moment, we haven't quite determined what it is or what it does. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Mr Wiggins, we know that it is safe to walk on." The Mayor stopped again as a round of applause began, and ended when Mr Wiggins stood and took a short bow. "Yes, yes, thank you. As I was saying, we've also determined that it is harmless, since no one has come down with Sneezles, Chickaroo, or any other disease (not to worry, we have Magic Cookies, Herbal Scrambled Eggs, and everything else on standby in the event of an emergency). Beyond that, we are still trying to figure out what happened. I would like to remind everyone to remain calm and not to panic. We Neovians pride ourselves on being resourceful and clever, and, mark my words, we will get to the bottom of this!" The Mayor paused again and bowed while the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
"Before I move on to questions, I think the best course of action for us to take is to ask our very own resident detective, Mr Sherbolt Haven, to take on this mysterious case," the Mayor announced.
There was a moment of silence as the town digested what he had said. Everyone knew of Sherbolt Haven's eccentric hobby – being a detective in a town with few mysteries to solve (so he often created his own, much to the dismay of the townsfolk who preferred a quieter and less mysterious way of life). But still, it was hard to deny that the Bruce wasn't clever. Mrs Ashton had raved for weeks about his brilliance in finding that secret door behind the wall panel, and Mrs Ashton always knew best...
"Excellent idea! Brilliant! Haven to the rescue!" The crowd cheered. Turning every which way, everyone looked around for Haven in the hall, and yet no one could see neither beak nor tail of him anywhere.
"Er, I say, where the IS Sherbolt Haven!?" The Mayor inquired anxiously.
At that very moment, completely unaware of any mysterious happenings in Neovia, Sherbolt Haven, Neovia's #1 (and only) amateur sleuth extraordinaire, was making his way back to town with his good friend Weatherby. Both the Bruce and Usul (looking a bit more portly than usual) had spent two delightful weeks vacationing in Meridell and Brightvale. Haven was thrilled to explore the vast collection of books and scrolls sold in Brightvale (a much wider selection than the Neovian Press had to offer), and Weatherby was more than happy to sample the many varieties of cheese available at the Cheese Roller. So taken was Weatherby with the cheese, that he had insisted on bringing a few back with him as souvenirs (though more likely tea time snacks).
"Well, Weatherby, I think a vacation was exactly what we needed. Don't you agree?" Haven asked, having enjoyed the sunny weather but eager to return to his preferred twilit sky.
"Hmph," was all Weatherby managed to reply, concentrating on lugging his five blocks of cheese (1 Triple Mustard, 1 Honey, and 3 Bubbling Blueberry) behind him.
"Precisely. Especially after all those cases I solved. Remind me next time not to wait five hundred and ninety-nine cases between vacations. I felt quite exhausted, and those last few were particularly challenging," Haven continued.
Weatherby took a moment to stop and stare in bewilderment at his friend. Only Haven would count everything he could as a mystery, from Missing Slippers (Case #16; found under Haven's bed) to Cookie Thievery (Case #378; eaten by Weatherby) to Holes in the Garden (Case #561; Mrs Darcy's Gathow had a fondness for Weatherby's carefully grown turnips); indeed, there wasn't much that Haven didn't consider a mystery to solve.
"Five hundred and ninety-nine? Move like five," Weatherby mumbled to himself, resuming his slow pace.
"What was that?" Haven turned and asked.
"I said, I'll try to remind you next time," Weatherby replied, knowing how sensitive Haven was with his cases (trying to move a filing cabinet in their shared office had resulted in a lengthy lecture on the need of a detective to keep his cases organized).
"Excellent. Would you look at that, I think we've finally crossed over the border into Neovia. I'm sure we would've made it back sooner if not for your cheese," Haven said, shaking his head at his friend's new found fondness. "Glad to be back, eh Weatherby? I say, we should stop in at the Crumpetmonger and pick up some crumpets and biscuits. They don't quite make them the same in Brightvale or Meridell. And those fruits! Eugh! I'll be happy if I never see another Screlon or Marrow again, wouldn't you agree?"
"Hmm, definitely some crumpets," Weatherby answered. "The Marrow was an acquired taste. It wasn't too bad in the cream pie. I don't think I would try it with the rice in the sundae every again – "
"Stop!" Haven yelled as they came to the entrance to the town, startling Weatherby out of his cuisine reminiscing. "Something is not right here," Haven mused out loud as he stared at their surroundings. The Bruce and Usul looked around curiously, not sure what to make of the white mass that covered the ground in front of them.
"What do you think it is?" Asked Weatherby, for once unable to come up with a logical explanation.
"Hmm, I'm not entirely sure," Haven replied absentmindedly as he bent down for a closer look. "Perhaps we'd better see if this strange substance is contained to this specific area or if it has spread. Tread cautiously, Weatherby: something strange is afoot here."
Nodding in agreement, Weatherby plodded behind Haven, turning back every so often to make sure that his cheese was still attached to their ropes. As they approached the town square, each was so preoccupied (Weatherby with his cheese; Haven on the ground) that neither noticed the large crowd standing outside the steps of the town hall. The Mayor was just about to dispatch search parties to find Haven, when he squinted into the dimness and recognized his missing constituents.
"Thank Fyora!" the Mayor exclaimed. "Mr Haven! Mr Weatherby! Thank goodness you're here! We were just about to send out a search party for you – Alice from the Crumpetmonger said that you were due back two days ago, and that she hadn't seen you at all!"
"Yes well," Haven began, as the crowd parted for them as he and Weatherby approached the steps, "we had some slight delays in our return travels, you know. Didn't quite anticipate the added weight of 5 blocks of cheese in our journey – "
"That's all well and good," the Mayor interrupted (making a mental note to ask Weatherby for a sample of cheese later), "but we have a bit of a situation here. Sometime last evening or early this morning, this – this stuff appeared out of nowhere and covered the town. Please say you'll help solve this mystery!"
"Why of course! Happy to be of service! I'll get started straight away," Haven replied (always eager to solve a mystery), and bowed to the townsfolk that had erupted in applause.
Stepping a few paces away from the crowd, which had drawn back and was watching in anticipation, Haven pulled out his trusty magnifying glass from inside his tweed coat, and bent down to properly examine the white mass on the ground. To the crowd's amazement, Haven picked up a piece of the mass and studied it in the dim light for a few minutes before dropping it back to the ground. Returning his magnifying glass to its pocket, he pulled out his well-worn notebook and scribbled a few notes. Pulling out his pocket watch, he checked the time (made another note in his notebook) and – to the utter bewilderment of the crowd and Weatherby – looked up at the sky before nodding to himself. After a few moments, Haven gestured for Weatherby to join him.
"Have you come up with any plausible explanation for this strange event, Weatherby?" Haven inquired.
"Err, not entirely. The only idea that comes to mind is a giant wayward pie that flew over from the Carnival of Terror, but I'm not sure that the trajectory of such a pie would account for all this... stuff. Besides, this substance is decidedly lacking in custard from what I can tell," answered Weatherby, as the townsfolk murmured in agreement.
"Excellent thought, old chap, and you are correct – it is not custard. On the contrary, the strange white mass that lays before us all is... FEATHERS!" he announced to the great puzzlement of the crowd.
"Hard to believe, I know," Haven continued. "I wouldn't have guessed it myself if I hadn't brought along my annotated copy of Petpet Biology with me on our travels for some light reading. I'm happy to say that it appears that we have a visiting flock of Weewoos in our town!"
"Weewoos!?" cried Mr Wentworth.
"What on Neopia would they be doing here!?" Lady Dashwood exclaimed.
"Excellent question, madame. According to the calendar, today is the 21st day of Relaxing, otherwise known as The Great Moult – the day when all Weewoos shed their feathers. As to why they are here, let me see if I can ask them," Haven replied. The townsfolk stared in stunned silence.
"How exactly are you going to do that?" Weatherby dared to ask, just as clueless as everyone else, as Haven was clearing his throat.
"Simple really. I can speak and understand Weewoovian. Doesn't everyone? There was a highly informative chapter in the Guide to Wild Petpets that deciphered the wee's and the woo's." And with that, Haven began a sequence of whistles. No one dared make a sound. Within a few minutes (Haven had to repeat his whistling a few times – saying 'Hello, can you come here please' was remarkably similar to 'Thank you for bringing me a grub'), there was a soft fluttering sound and a small white Weewoo landed on the ground in front of Haven. The Weewoo glanced at the crowd briefly before turning his attention to Haven who had knelt down. The pair continued to talk, with much wing flapping and nodding between them. After several minutes, the Weewoo flew away, and Haven stood and faced his audience.
"Well! I've just had the most fascinating conversation," Haven began."It seems that a flock of white Weewoos decided to forgo their traditional Great Moult location on Krawk Island because of a minor incident last year involving sunburnt feathers! Needless to say, they were not happy being mistaken for pink (and a few red) Weewoos, and decided to go somewhere different this year... and they chose Neovia! Amazing, isn't it?"
"That's remarkable!" the Mayor exclaimed. "Absolutely brilliant! Job well done, Haven! You solved the mystery!" Haven looked slightly taken aback as everyone rushed forward to shake his hand in thanks.
"Always at your service," Haven said with a bow amidst the 'Haven!' cheers that had started. "Oh, and the Weewoos wish me to convey their deepest apologies for the mess with the feathers. They didn't mean to cause alarm."
"No trouble at all!" the Mayor replied. "We'll have it cleaned up and the town can return to normal. Just think of what this will mean for our tourism!" Plans started to be made for town-wide sweep (Mr Woodhouse had kindly volunteered his cart to pick-up swept feathers).
Meanwhile, Weatherby had been staring at the white mass of feathers that had covered the town. Doing his own calculations, he frowned and turned to Haven.
"Haven, did that Weewoo say many Weewoos came here?"
"Oh! I guess I forgot to mention that. Willoughby (the Weewoo I was talking with) mentioned that there were a few. I said we would be happy to have them stay here for as long as they wanted," Haven continued. "And they were quite keen to try your Vanilla Cream Puffs, Alice," he said to the owner of the Crumpetmonger. "Maybe you could set out a few so they could eat them? Speaking of food, they are quite curious about your cheese, Weatherby. Oh, and Mrs Darcy, do you think your Gathow could stay indoors until the Weewoos leave? It made quite nervous. And – "
"Haven!" Weatherby interrupted, anxious for an answer to his question. "How many precisely are here?"
"Didn't I say that? Oh, I guess not. By Willoughby's calculations, about 600. Exciting, isn't it!" Haven exclaimed, and continued to prattle off the rest of the Weewoos' requests.
The townsfolk of Neovia could do nothing but stand there in silence and shock, mouths agape, at the knowledge of 600 Weewoos vacationing in their town. As one, they looked to the sky and saw Weewoos sitting on every available space, from rooftops to lampposts, and looking down at the curious onlookers.
And that is how Neovia's annual Weewoovian festival (featuring the sale of the popular and famous Weewoo-feather filled pillows) began.