The Greatest Show In Neopia!: Part Three
The small grass hut rang with laughter as the four Neopian friends talked and joked together deep into the starry night. Kadar and Connie had found their missing companion, Jarvis, eating from a huge bowl of Bone Soup that had been offered to him by the incredibly hospitable mutant Krawk.
After several brief explanations the newcomers had learned that the mutant Krawk, whose name was Sherukh, lived by himself in this leafy hut on the Plateau of Tyrannia, and had been doing so for several months, ever since leaving the security of his home in an attempt to make something of himself.
Initially a little nervous about their new comrade, Jarvis the Lenny was astutely embarrassed by how easily both Kadar and Constantina seemed to accept him into their little group, and he decided that while Sherukh certainly did look extremely scary with his extra eye and arms, he was actually a gentle sort of soul and had been nothing but nice and courteous to him from the moment they’d met. He marvelled at how wrong his initial assumptions on the mutant had been, and spent several minutes scribbling these thoughts into his thick diary.
Eventually, when they seemed to run out of all other topics of conversation, the talk came around to what they were doing travelling around on the plains of Tyrannia.
“Well,” started Jarvis enthusiastically, “Kadar and I are travelling the world and mapping Neopia. We’ve already finished several areas, but when we arrived in the Haunted Woods -”
“I joined them, too,” Connie contributed quickly.
She looked pointedly at Jarvis who wisely decided to let her take the story from there, “I wanted to see some other places in Neopia that I’d heard of, so Jarvis decided to let me tag along. Although why he wanted to travel with him,” she pointed her gold claws dismissively towards Kadar, “Is beyond me.”
“And right now we don’t have enough neopoints to get rid of her,” the camouflage Ogrin chimed in, “Or even to go any further at all; we had to beg passage aboard a ship just to get here, and I don‘t think they‘ll let us do that again. Jarvis thought this would be a great place to sell our maps, what with all the Neopets here never having travelled much themselves -” he stopped when he noticed that Sherukh was chuckling to himself, “What’s so funny?”
“Oh,” smiled the Krawk mirthfully, showing off a full set of teeth that still made Jarvis shudder a little, “You’re trying to sell maps to Tyrannians? That the funniest thing I’ve ever heard,” he paused a moment to wipe at all three of his eyes as they had begun to water when he laughed.
“What’s so funny about it?” asked the rather annoyed Eventide Lenny abruptly, after all it had been Jarvis's plan to come here in the first place and he was quick to try and defend that decision.
“Nobody here will want your maps, I‘m afraid. Most Tyrannians won’t travel to the neighbouring villages, never mind all over the world, maps here are just pretty pictures, and when there are so many beautiful things to see right outside your door, who wants art? If you want to make some neopoints why don’t you try coming with me down to the village tomorrow? I’ll show you what I do to earn my keep around here,” he winked conspiratorially at them but refused to mention any more on the subject until the following dawn.*******
One by one the Neopets in the hut started to fall asleep. The mutant Krawk, Sherukh, was the last to doze off and finally the sounds of their snoring echoed through the rocky valley.
A small figure rolled close to the door of the hut and peered inside, it’s shiny head was illuminated from within by a flashing series of lights. It beeped quietly to itself several times and anyone listening would have said that those beeps sounded almost annoyed. There was nobody awake to hear the little creature though, and after several minutes of observing the sleepers carefully, it whirred off into the night once more.*******
The morning sun found the four new friends standing in the bustling centre of a large Tyrannian village. Several native Neopets had already gathered around Sherukh and seemed to be waiting for something to begin. The three adventurers stood nearby, also waiting eagerly and keenly aware of the sense of excitement that was quickly filling the air.
Sherukh was dressed in a fancy striped waistcoat, which had extra holes cut for his mutant arms, and he kept winking at his new companions conspirationally as he spoke loudly to his small crowd of villagers in their native tongue, “Ugga ugg a-merog, trarr!”
He was clearly quite fluent in the unusual language, which seemed to focus mainly on the guttural tone of voice in which the words were spoken rather than on the actual words themselves - certain sounds were repeated frequently in a slightly altering pitch which seemed to mean something different each time. Jarvis was utterly enthralled, and vainly wished he’d brought one of his scrolls along with him so he could take notes on this spoken phenomenon.
Before long, a sizable crowd had gathered and Sherukh had produced, from a little bag he wore over his left shoulder, eight brightly painted stones. Each one of these rocks was easily the size of tennis ball and painted a different colour so it could be identified easily. With a quick grin at Connie who was smiling back and nodding knowledgeably, he threw all eight of the heavy stones high into the air above his reptilian head.
Kadar gasped as the rocks started to rain down towards his newly made friend, but just as he was about to dash forward and help him, Connie stepped forward and placed a comforting gold claw on his tense shoulder.
“It’s okay, Kadar,” she said earnestly, “I’ve seen this trick done before. Back at the fairground there used to be an Elephante who did something similar, although not quite on this scale. It’s called rock juggling.”
The camouflage Ogrin gaped in wonder as the rainbow of rocks that fell towards the smiling mutant Krawk were deftly snatched out of the air by his many arms and thrown rhythmically back up into the sky. His fours limbs whirled like a propeller as he continued to catch and throw the bright stones while always maintaining his charming graceful persona for his audience.
The crowd watched in wonder as the colours danced before their eyes, a kaleidoscopic blur with the speed at which they were moving.
It was Jarvis who noticed first what the natives were doing. Each Tyrannian that stood around the mutant Krawk cheering and clapping, delved deep into their fur lined pockets and fished out different sums of neopoints to add to a collection in a small wooden box in front of the entertainer.
The enthralled Lenny pointed this out with an excited blue finger, and Kadar, who was always a quick learner, started to look terribly excited at the prospect.
“They don’t want our old maps,” he enthused, his eyes glowing with fresh ideas, “They just want entertainment. I used to be something of a magician when I was younger, just doing a few tricks for family and friends, but maybe I could earn us a couple of coins doing something here too?”
“We don’t want to take away Sherukh's business here, but we could try to perform with him if he’ll let us. I can sing a little bit,” encouraged Constantina eagerly.
Since leaving the Deserted Fairground she’d been sorely missing the nightly attention of the cheering crowds, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to reclaim some of the spirit of that at least. She could already feel the familiar excitement bubbling up inside her at the thought of being in the limelight again.
When the juggling Krawk finally stopped for a quick break, and had spoken merrily with his fans for a few minutes, they put their idea forward to him hopefully.
“Well, I don’t see why not,” he agreed readily, “I think the locals will enjoy something a little different, but if I’m juggling, Kadar's doing magic, and Connie's singing, what will you be doing, Jarvis?”
The Lenny paled with shock, “Me? I don’t know anything at all about entertaining, I certainly don’t think they’d be interested in learning how to navigate the Ice Tunnels of Snowy Valley, and I can‘t perform parlour tricks.”
He looked slightly relieved that he wouldn’t be able to assist his friends in their new found endeavour, he had always found himself rather ill at ease with large crowds. It was Connie who stepped forward with a solution to their little problem.
“Back in the Haunted Fairground we had the Ringmaster, his job is to tell all the customers how fantastic our show is and get as many of them as possible to come and see the main event. All he does is dress up smart, keep everything organised and shout a lot,” she giggled, “Sounds like the perfect job for you, Jarvis.”
“But, I don’t know how to speak Tyrannian,” he reminded her, his voice rising slightly, “I’d just be shouting silly gobbledygook at them.”
“That would work rather well actually,” Sherukh intoned cheerily, “Nobody can resist seeing something mysterious. If you manage to sound really excited, they’ll pick up on that and want to see what all the fuss is about. I say we go for it.”
And just like that, it was decided the show would go ahead. It was planned that the four friends would travel to a nearby jungle village that Sherukh had visited often. They decided to wait until the morning, so the chattering Neopets returned to the mutant Krawks hut that evening, planning excitedly about what the morning would bring and coming up with ideas of what their performances could include.*******
After a few initial hiccups - when Kadar forgot how to perform a certain trick and kept getting mixed up with his numbers for example, or when Connie accidentally bumped into Sherukh causing him to drop three of his precious rocks - most of the show that morning went perfectly and they were all pleased with their performances.
The happy Tyrannians found the show very entertaining, and they clapped and shouted for each one of the routines they saw. Jarvis managed an excellent job of beckoning and calling to the villagers so they’d gather around, despite a few minutes of stage fright when he first began, and when they were finally finished for the day, the little wooden collection box was fairly overflowing with neopoints.
Back at Sherukh's hut they rested and laughed together as they recalled their busy day, sharing up the coins into four equal piles Kadar pushed one of the stacks insistently in Constantina's direction.
“There you are,” he announced triumphantly, “Paid in full. You can go back home now, Miss.” He emphasised the last word, knowing it drove her crazy.
“Actually,” she replied sweetly, “I’ve lost more neopoints than this by coming with you in the first place, I could have been earning much more if I’d stayed back at home in the Haunted Woods, so I figure you owe me your share of the pile too.”
Jarvis laughed whilst listening to this exchange. “I do believe she’s right Kadar, tell me - shall we give her our neopoints too and say goodbye right now, or shall we keep this clever gold Ruki around with us a little while longer?”
Kadar groaned to himself theatrically and quickly grabbed his share of neopoints out of Connie's reach. He made a great show of acting even more moody than usual towards her, but everybody in their little assembly knew he was secretly as pleased as they were that she was going to be remaining with them.
The sun was going down over the rocky plateau and the four friends were sitting quietly just outside the door of Sherukh's hut and enjoying the view, when Connie spoke again, “Is there something I could ask all of you?”
She sounded uncharacteristically serious and when they turned in her direction the Ruki took a nervous breath and spoke again, “It’s just that I’ve had such a great time over these last few days. I’ve never travelled anywhere before and I just wanted to say, well, thank you.”
She blushed brightly in the sunset, “Back at home, my booth in the fair isn’t doing so good. I need to think of a new approach. I was wondering if - when this expedition is over, of course - you’d like to come back with me and help me put on a fun show there? I’d love to do something like we did today, maybe I could ask for my own tent to perform in, if it were really good.”
Her eyes shone with hope and dreams for a moment and then she seemed to remember where she was. She blushed even deeper turning her naturally gold cheeks a burning pink. Kadar was the one who broke the stunned the silence in the little group after Connie‘s speech.
Standing up casually the camouflage Ogrin surprised them all by saying, “Sure, I suppose. Jarvis and I aren’t in any rush to get home, so I guess we could help you out - just for a little while mind,” he tried to save his tough guy exterior a little.
“But you’ll owe us. Don’t go thinking we’re going to help you for free or anything.” He shuffled off into the hut, throwing a glare at the Ruki that did not look quite as unfriendly as he’d hoped.
Jarvis took Connie's claw in his elegant blue wings, “And I’d be thrilled to assist you, Constantina. You can count on us. I’d like to visit just one last place, and then we’ll join you back in the Haunted Woods for the greatest show ever.”
“The greatest show ever?” mused Sherukh, scratching his head thoughtfully with all four of his arms. “I’d like to be a part of that, too. Would you mind if I tagged along with you? I’d love to get a job in a real fairground like yours, Connie.”
“Of course,” she smiled, clapping her claws together with joy, “This will be the best show anyone’s ever seen, I can hardly wait.”
“The greatest show in the Haunted Woods?” queried Jarvis with humour dancing in his eyes.
“The greatest show in Neopia!” she replied excitedly.
To be continued…