Don't Judge A Pet By Its Color
I glanced down at my pitch-black hooves as I sulked outside the door to my owner's castle. I had been appointed as the Head Knight a few months ago, alongside various other royal pets who serve here. While one would think that this is a highly honorable and desirable position, it gets lonely. The other royal pets here dislike me out of spite and jealousy, and they yearn for the authority that I had been bestowed. It isn't my fault that she respects me more than the others, but it almost seems like it would be worth it to step down and join the others among the lower ranks and seek acceptance from them.
My name is Aovk; I'm a Royal Boy Uni. I'm really nothing special, I don't have any impressive battledome skills and my color, in my opinion, is rather bland. It goes perfectly with my bland life! If we're being quite honest here, I don't even enjoy working at the castle. It's not even near the hustle and bustle (If it could even be considered that.) of Altador; we reside on the outskirts of town among the mountains. I'm lucky though, I suppose. I mustn't bite the hand that feeds me. I'm lucky to have such a secure home, unlike all the poor misfortunate Neopets that move in and out of the pound, begging for scraps from the soup fairy.
No matter how much I try to focus on the positives, I can't help but long for a more rebellious life. Not so much rebellious, but I want to live a little! Every Neopet needs to get out and leave the theoretical nest eventually, stretch their hooves a little. If there was one group of friends that knew how to walk on the wild side, it was the three Neopets that always made their way past the castle under the cover of nightfall. They always seemed to scamper away when they realized I was onto them, but they always looked like they were having so much fun! And like magic, they appeared among the brush.
Should I follow them? No, I shouldn't. What if they hurt me, or want to battle? I'm a weakling; I bet they have all kinds of great training! I could just ask them for directions! No, no, that wouldn't work. They always see me here. Maybe I can bluff them. I think I'll try it.
So, as you can probably guess, I galloped after them.
"Hey, you three! Now you wait just a minute!" I shouted, coming to a slow trot as I got closer.
"What do you want, pretty boy?" The tall, muscular Halloween Uni stepped towards me menacingly.
"Uhhhh," I stumbled. He's a lot bigger than he looked before. No, stay strong! Fight it! Be assertive! "What are you doing trespassing on the castle grounds?"
"What's it to you? It's none of your business." The female Mutant Acara sneered as she stepped out from behind the other two fearsome looking pets.
"Actually, it is," I retaliated with pride, puffing out my chest. "I'm the Head Knight at this castle. My owner resides here, and that means you're trespassing."
"Hmph." The last Neopet to speak, a male Darigan Peophin, scowled. "Why should we believe you? What's your name anyway?"
"My name is Aovk." I held my head high, feeling my confidence grow. "And you all are?"
"I'm Ex." The Halloween Uni stepped forward. "She's Nihyu, and he's Franchoeur, but we call him Frankie."
"Frankie?" I chuckled. "How cute. Isn't Franchoeur more of a girl's name?"
"I, um." Frankie's ears fell back against his head, and his gaze fell to the ground. "It was a lab ray accident."
"Oh." I instantly regretted my remark. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm being rude. Sorry for bothering you guys. Have a nice night." I turned around and moped my way back to my spot by the castle gate. I paused at the sound of whispers behind me, and I heard a voice call out.
"Hey, kid, come back," Ex called out.
"Huh?" My head snapped around. This is it. They're going to challenge me in a 3-on-1 battledome fight. This isn't good. I began walking towards the trio of mischief-makers.
"Truth is, kid, we think you're pretty cool. Want to hang with us tonight?" Ex smiled, and I ignored the aggravated look on Frankie's face.
"I don't know." I looked back at the castle. This is my chance to have a night filled with adrenaline-pumping shenanigans. "Okay, I'm in." I smiled.
"Excellent." Nihyu's face curls up into a devious smirk. "Now you get to learn why we creep around every night. Stay close." And with that, the three of them turned and made their way toward Altador. Me, not being one to stomp on any hooves, scurried along close behind them. As we walked, Ex fell behind the other's to walk beside me.
"Stash your armor in a bush. We'll bring you back for it."
"What?" I stopped. "Why?"
"We aren't typically seen with your type. You're going to ruin our image." He snickered.
And with that, I was just a white Uni again. The armor I had worked so hard to earn was shed with the slightest bit of peer pressure. I noticed ahead we were coming up on Follie's Farm. We all walked right up to the front door, Nihyu knocked with her hoof. A kind looking blue Moehog answered, and he looked overjoyed.
"Oh, goody! Are y'all here to retrieve that order?" he chimed.
Nihyu simply nodded, taking a package from Farmer Follie and placing it in a small bag attached to her front left leg. He thanked us and as we turned to leave, I made eye contact with him. He gave me a puzzled look, and we continued on our way.
The walk to the Hall of Heroes seemed much longer than it really was. The trees crawled past at a snail's pace, and the conversation was kept to a minimum. I wanted to ask what had just happened, but it wasn't any of my business, after all. I had no idea how to get back to my castle, and this was not a time to make the three of them angry to the point of leaving me stranded.
We entered through a side door that I had never seen used before, and we approached the Janitor. He was an excitable little Yurble. He appeared to be middle-aged, but had the attitude of a cranky old man. He scowled when his eyes met mine.
"New recruit, eh?" he croaked. "He doesn't really match."
"He's temporary, just showing him around," Frankie blurted, emphasizing the word 'temporary'.
"Oh." The Janitor looked at me suspiciously, and I nodded along with Frankie's statement. "I see."
"Anyways, we brought the order from Follie." Nihyu changed the subject, and gestured towards the sack tied to her ankle.
The greedy Yurble lurched forward, grabbing for the bag.
"Excuse me," Nihyu hissed, pulling back her leg. "I need the money."
He handed her one thousand neopoints, and glanced back up at her expectantly. She lazily held her leg out toward him, and he withdrew his delivery.
"Thanks for your business." Ex smiled warmly, and we left the Hall of Heroes. Now I was really confused. A delivery? Of what? I bet it was some sort of all-powerful battledome weapon, or one of the Snowager's most prized possessions.
I was so caught up in thought that I hadn't noticed that the trio had stopped walking, and I barreled right into Frankie.
"Oh, gosh." I stood, and quickly helped him up. "I'm so sorry!"
He was furious, I could tell. This Peophin deserved some kind of award for controlling anger; I'd be angry at me too. I'd insulted his name, intruded on his night, and knocked him to the ground. Just when I thought he was about to snap, Ex stepped between us.
"Okay, simmer down, everyone. Relax." He looked at the two of us for a moment, and gestured at a nearby shrub. "Your armor's in there."
I turned to the bush and equipped myself with my royal armor, and turned back to the group.
"I have a few questions for the three of you." I squinted my eyes. "First of all, where's my castle?"
The three of them, all at once, pointed a hoof at a nearby hill.
"Just over that hill," Ex said calmly.
"Alright, second question." I gestured towards Nihyu's bag, "What was that all about? What was so secretive? Was it an all-powerful battledome weapon? A Draik egg? A Nerkmid? Endless treasure?"
"Oh, goodness, no," Nihyu giggled. "It was food! Old Follie is a farmer, and the janitor is his cousin."
"So, how does that involve the three of you?"
"We run a delivery service!" Ex cackled.
"Wait, why do you always sneak around then? I don't understand!" I interrogated.
"There's less commotion in the city, we travel faster at night." Frankie grinned for the first time all night. He raised his eyebrows. "Why, what did you think we were doing?"
"I, uh, I don't..." I struggled to find words.
"Maybe next time, you shouldn't judge a pet by its color!" Ex cracked up. "Just because we're painted a spooky color doesn't mean we're up to no good. Darigans, mutants, Halloweens, even greys. We're no more sinister than the rest of the pets of Neopia. A pink Usul could be every bit as evil as one of us."
I stared at the ground. I felt horrible. Ex was right; I had judged them all. I looked up at them with regretful eyes.
"I know I've said this a lot tonight, but I'm really sorry. To all of you." I made eye contact with the three of them.
"We forgive you, Aovk." Nihyu's smile stretched from horn to horn. "Anyways; we have more deliveries to make. Friends?"
"Definitely!" I was nearly shaking with excitement. Friends! I had FRIENDS! Living, breathing neopets who considered me their friend!
"See you around, kid," Ex said softly as he turned to leave. As he turned, the others followed his lead.
I turned to walk back to the castle, but this time I knew I wasn't alone. I felt the dark cloud that had hovered above my head for so long evaporate, knowing that out there in the world I had three great friends to call my own. And from that night on, I went with them on all of their deliveries. The so-called "rebellious" trio became a delivery quartet.