Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 110,015,858 Issue: 181 | 10th day of Running, Y7
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Jhudaberry Soup: Part One

by sky___phoenix


"Omelette again," Skylark, a usually perky blue Lupe, grumbled moodily, picking at her mushy breakfast. "Why can't we have something different for a change?" she growled.

     "Omelette's good for you," Kibeth, her sister, replied half-heartedly through an unenthusiastic mouthful of the same soggy material, her starry Gelert tail drooping.

     "Not when you make it," Skylark barked bluntly. "Just because our owner's working all day doesn't mean you have to cook. We could have bought eggs, or bacon, or chocolate milk…" her voice trailed off dreamily, "but nooo, we had to have soggy old omelette, with gross off veggies." She snorted, toying around with her spoon for a moment before pushing the whole bowl away from her in disgust.

     "Anything interesting, Al?" asked Kibeth, pointedly glancing across the table to watch her younger brother, who was absorbed in the latest issue of the Neopian Times.

     "Of course!" Alleron, a tall blue Lenny, replied with a sharp snap of his beak. He shifted his lanky legs to a more comfortable position on the straight-backed dining chair, looking peeved at being disturbed.

     "Sorry, Al," Kibeth said hastily. "But you know it's the faerie festival this week, and I wondered if there was any news . . ." she waited expectantly.

     Alleron heaved an exaggerated sigh, then his beak split into a wide grin. "Why, you only have to ask, O radiant sister of mine. Well, it's just the usual - a special exhibition at the Art Gallery, new plushies, books, food, and…." His keen eyes skimmed the silvery pages of the Times, "oh, and the soup kitchen's open for everybody today," he finished dismissively.

     "What? So we can actually eat at the soup kitchen today!" Skylark said eagerly, springing off her chair. She trotted excitedly over to her brother, craning over Alleron's long, blue neck to read the front page of the Times. "We haven't been to the soup kitchen before, I've always wanted to! Come with me, Kib?" she whined. "I'm so hungry!"

     Kibeth threw her little sister a sour look. "If you don't eat your omelette, that's your own fault. I'm staying right here, thank you very much," she said primly. "Besides, you know very well we live in Faerieland. Neopia Central is too far away to go by ourselves."

     "Kib's right," said Alleron kindly, glancing up from his newspaper. "Don't you have any holiday homework to do? You could go and help sky___phoenix at her shop - she's looking for a helper."

     "Umm . . . yeah," said Skylark slowly, an idea taking shape in her mind. If only she could get away with it . . . she pulled a reluctant face. "There's a huge music assignment I have to do. It'll probably take ages. I better get started." The small Lupe started backing away from the breakfast table. "Don't disturb me, I'll be in my room." Skylark slipped around the corner into her bedroom, and leaped neatly onto her blue and orange funky revolving bed. She propped her head up on one paw, pondering.

     I've just got to go to the soup kitchen! They never let me do anything fun, she pouted. It'll be easy enough to get out of the house. All I have to do then is find a way to Neopia Central. It's not that far, I'm sure, she thought vaguely. I just have to get back before my sister notices I'm gone. Let's see, it's only seven o'clock - the Soup Kitchen probably doesn't open until eight-thirty. Oh, goody! I'm going to get some soooup, going to get some sooouuup! No more rotten omelette! Skylark jumped up and did a quiet, but excited jig, but suddenly she lost her balance on the revolving bed and landed onto her orange carpet with a loud whoomph.

     "Sky? What's going on in there?" she heard her sister call sharply.

     "Oh, I . . . knocked my chair over," Skylark called back, hoping her excuse didn't sound too suspicious. "Um, see you!"

     "Now why did she said that?" puzzled Kibeth. She would definitely have to keep an eye on that young Lupe!

     A few minutes later, Skylark snuck out of the back garden, crouching so she couldn't be seen from the arched windows in the living room. Once she was well past her Neohome, she jogged confidently past row after row of neat, suburban Faerieland houses, not bothering to check if she was being followed by a suspicious sibling. In seemingly no time at all, she reached the busy center of Faerie City.

     The streets were overflowing with Neopets of all species and colours, most browsing the pale blue and yellow shops filled with faerie goods. Streamers in all the colours of the rainbow hung from walls and roofs in celebration of the annual Faerie Festival.

     The air was filled with 'Ooohs' and 'How pretty!' from the pets visiting Faerieland for the first time. Every now and then a regal looking faerie would float past, ignoring the watching crowds with a quiet dignity. The crowds didn't affect Skylark, though, who had been to the city center many times. She dodged and wove a way through the scores of Neopets with ease, glancing around without interest, her mind focused on one thing only - getting to the Soup Kitchen.

     Soon she faced a high, puffy cloud arch, part of the gigantic cloud wall surrounding Faerie City. It was so tall that ten Lennies standing on each other's shoulders wouldn't reach the top, and her history textbook claimed it was wide enough (not to mention strong enough) for even Turmaculus to lumber along the top.

     Two fire faeries stood guard, each at one end of the arch, and both nodded politely to passersby but did not interfere with anybody walking through. Tour-guide Neopets dressed in smart, blue uniforms gave lectures on the history of Faerieland to groups of Neopians following in their wake. Skylark passed below the arch with no fuss, but as soon as she reached the other side and saw the view in front of her, she stopped, spellbound.

     All around her she could see smaller, glittery clouds, the homes of famous faeries like Jhudora, the Rainbow Faerie and the Healing Faerie.

     The sight that really caught her breath, however, was the view below. A sparkling, rippling blue sea stretched in all directions, as far as her sharp eyes could see, reflecting the sunny, bright blue sky above. Far below, a vague green landmass could be seen. Closer were lumps of brown she assumed were islands. "I wonder which island Neopia Central is on," Skylark mused, her heart already starting to sink through her stomach. Her sister had been right after all - it was such a long way to the soup kitchen, and she was starving!

     Quickly the small Lupe made her decision - she would have to ask one of the tour-guides clustering around the arch to show her how to get to Neopia Central. She turned around and made her way to the nearest tour group, where a nervous looking Christmas Zafara wearing a blue cap was gesturing to a small group of Island Kacheeks, Kougras, Shoyrus and Unis.

     "… and here is the famous Faerie Arch, famous for, um… err.. its spectacular scenery," Skylark heard the Zafara announce, as she padded closer. Several of the Island pets muttered discontentedly and glanced significantly at their wristwatches.

     Skylark started to feel sorry for the Zafara, as the pets around her grumbled at the lack of information provided by their tour-guide.

     "This arch has amazing . . . historical significance," the Zafara continued, her light voice rising in panic. "It was built by . . ." she paused, flustered.

     "Built by the first Faerie Queen, Tybia, who raised it from the cloud you are standing on this very minute," Skylark interrupted solemnly, stepping beside the Christmas Zafara. The eyes of the Island pets all swiveled to Skylark in surprise, while the Zafara gaped at her rescuer; her round blue eyes wide open with shock and relief.

     "Not only is it an impressive monument, it also helped Faerieland in it's greatest hour of need," continued Skylark grandly, basking in their attention. "Sloth tried to attack Faerieland with his mutant army in the reign of Queen Fyliantha, but he couldn't get past the cloud wall, so Faerieland was safe. To this day nobody has attacked," she finished, biting back a giggle at the rapt way the tourists were gazing at her.

     One island Shoyru looked annoyed at the Lupe's interruption, but the other Neopets were nudging each other, nodding at Skylark, their faces alight with interest. Skylark thrust her chest out proudly, until a Kacheek cried avidly "Then what? Tell us more!" and the other Neopets soon took up the cry, clamoring for Skylark to share some more Faerieland legends with them.

     Suddenly the Lupe couldn't think of anything to say, and she took a step back automatically, dismayed. She cast a wild glance at the real tour-guide, who understood immediately, and called, "Well look at that! Time is up for today. You're scheduled to visit the Faerie Queen in exactly three minutes!"

     The island pets quieted at once and hurriedly checked their watches, then without a backwards glance sprinted through the arch and into the City.

     "Shouldn't you be following them?" Skylark asked curiously, as the Zafara made no move to catch up with her tour.

     The Zafara shrugged dismissively. "Nah. They can look after themselves. I'm done with tour-guiding anyway, I'm a complete failure." She sighed, and smiled gratefully at the small Lupe. "Anyway, thanks for helping me back there. My name is Merielfy. If there's anything I can do for you . . .?"

     "I'm Skylark." The blue Lupe took a deep breath. "Actually, I'm trying to get to Neopia Central, but I have no idea how to get there. Could you help me, please?" she asked pleadingly.

     "Sure!" Merielfy declared enthusiastically. "I've got nothing to do now I'm not giving lectures about that arch over there," she said, glaring at the pure white structure, as if it were to blame. "In fact," she continued, her eyes measuring Skylark closely, "I could fly you down myself; you don't look too heavy."

     "Fly me?" Skylark gasped, wonderingly, then slowly grinned. "When do we start?"

To be continued...

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