Sharing the Load: Part Two
After her brother Galen had completely worn himself out working hard to support the both of them, Helen had taken his place that day. She had been working hard thus far, doing everything in his place while he took a much needed break. Her current job was helping a gold Grarrl farmer find his stray Petpets. She had found the Hoovles and the Zebies and now was wondering where else to look. She and her black Kimbi, Nova, had covered all of the farmer's land.
They once more walked along the cornfield. How far could Petpets travel? Helen was jolted from her thoughts when she heard a startled cry from Nova. She whirled to see her Kimbi being attacked by a Drackonack. She raced to defend him.
Helen pulled the Drackonack off Nova. The Drackonack struggled fiercely and Helen got scratched and bitten as a result. Helen didn’t let go and the aggressive Petpet stopped, growling down at Nova. She held the Drackonack gingerly hoping he wouldn’t suddenly go off. He didn’t stop growling until he was back in the pasture, gnawing on a chunk of cheese.
Helen quickly checked Nova over and then sighed with relief. “Thank goodness you’re not hurt! Drackonacks aren’t friendly, are they? Since they like cheese, I hope it will draw the remaining two out.”
The Gelert held a bag of cubed cheese, once more walking along the cornfield. This time, her Kimbi walked on her other side, so that she was between him and the cornfield. She wanted to take no chances with him. They had only walked halfway, when they heard an ominous growling. Then, they saw two Drackonacks came charging straight for them, snapping at each other in their eagerness.
Nova backed away from their fearsome Petpets. Helen proffered them bites of cheese and then quickly drew them along to the pasture. Like the first, these two gave no more trouble, content with their blocks of cheese.
“We’re almost finished, Nova! The Babaas, at least, should be easy,” Helen said.
They headed back to the meadow where they had found the Zebies. Helen had seen the forest beyond the meadow. Her plan was to search there, since she had searched everywhere on the Grarrl’s lands. So, it was to her great surprise that the ten missing Babaas were in the meadow. They seemed perfectly content there, meandering in the sunshine.
“OK, Nova, herd them to the pasture,” Helen said.
Nova looked up at his owner, his uncertainty clear. He was no Doglefox!
“You’ve been such a great help today, Nova. I’ll make sure you get Faerie Dumplings,” Helen said.
Almost before the Gelert finished, her Kimbi gave a bark of delight and ran towards the Babaas. Faerie Dumplings were Nova’s favorite food and were a rare treat. Still barking, the Kimbi tore through the meadow. The Babaas didn’t even look at him. Undeterred, Nova tried nudging a Babaa but she ignored him.
Not giving up, Nova moved on to a black Babaa, experimentally tugging on the Petpet’s wool. The Babaa gave an indignant bleat and turned towards Nova. The Kimbi got out of the way and, after a moment, the Babaa went back to browsing. At a loss, the black Kimbi trotted back to his owner. He looked so downtrodden that she was quick to reassure him.
“Never mind, Nova. I’m very proud of you. We’ll just have to figure something else out,” Helen said with a helpless shrug.
The Gelert sighed and was trying to think of what to do next when she heard someone singing. Looking around, she saw a brown Blumaroo heading in their direction. As the Blumaroo walked through the meadow, the Babaas began to gather around her. Not one seemed able to resist her sweet voice, expect the black Babaa. He willfully ignored her, even as the rest of the herd milled around her.
The shepherd’s crook clasped lightly in one hand showed her profession but even without this symbol, it was clear that this Blumaroo was a shepherdess. She was unconcerned about the lone Babaa’s resistance. As she drew close to him, she smiled fondly at his turned back and then reached out with her crook. Before he knew what was happening, he had been turned around and bundled along with the rest of the flock. So it was that the lovely stranger reached Helen and Nova who had watched her work with silent awe.
“I have never seen that before! Though, I’m glad for the help. You came just in time for us. We weren’t sure how we were going to get all of them back to their pasture,” Helen said.
“When I heard about my neighbor’s missing Petpets, I decided to come and help. Are these the last ones?” The brown Blumaroo smiled fondly at the Babaas.
“Yes, they are.”
They walked back together. Nova stayed away from the Babaas, not wanting to get caught up in the herd. They were as tractable as could be, following the brown Blumaroo. Her name was Oanez and she explained that she had an affinity for Petpets and them for her. Even the rowdiest would gentle when she was around.
“After what I just saw, I believe it,” Helen said with a nod.
Thanks to Oanez’s timely help, Helen finished her task. The gold Grarrl gave her a ride home. She checked on her brother, still sound asleep in his bedroom. She wanted to do just that but before she had just reached her own bedroom door when a knock was heard at the door.
This time, a smiling glowing Elephante stood at the door. It was her son’s birthday and Galen had agreed to be the entertainment. The Elephante agreed to let Helen come in Galen’s place and Nova, as always, tagged along. Thankfully, the Elephante’s home was a short walk away. The party was in full swing and Helen made balloon Neopets and Petpets, painted faces and taught the children how to juggle (a skill which Galen had taught her).
Thankfully, Helen was able to eat a typically hearty Meridellian meal consisting of macaroni and cheese, a fresh bread slice with a thick layer of butter, sliced chicken and corn on the cob with Braku Berry Juice to drink. For dessert, the adults had a fruit salad and the children had Blancmange. Compared to everything else she had done that day, the birthday party was utterly refreshing. The shadow Gelert walked home, still tired but happy.
“Good afternoon, Helen.”
The shadow Gelert turned to see a familiar figure had fallen in beside her as she walked. “Good afternoon, Chai.”
“I was just on my way back to your home to find you. Galen and I had been hired to do some work for a noble. How is he, by the way?”
“Still tired but better. I’m hoping he’ll recover soon enough.”
“A break is exactly what he’s needed for a long time. You’re a great sister for stepping in to take his place.”
“Thank you for saying so, Chai. It means a lot to hear that. I’d be willing to help you with whatever it is you’re supposed to do.”
“I have no idea. This particular noble is as uppity as they come. She never tells us anything until we arrive.”
“I’m guessing we’ll need a cab to get there?”
“You guess correctly.”
As their cab headed out of the village, Helen told Chai about her day. When she finished, the Halloween Gnorbu shook his head slowly and let out a low whistle.
“Just listening to you makes me tired, Helen. It also sounds just like Galen. He doesn’t know how to say no. Of course, he’s overworked. I’m just surprised he lasted as long as he did. There is no reason to follow in his footsteps. I would go home and stay there if I were you,” Chai said.
Helen shook her head and smiled. “That’s considerable of you to offer, Chai but you’re a friend. There’s no way. I’m telling you work alone.”
There was no time for protest, as they had arrived at their destination. Helen, Chai and Nova found a chocolate Draik waiting impatiently for them. She looked down her nose at them.
“I didn’t hire a girl to work. There are also no Petpets allowed anywhere on my grounds,” the chocolate Draik said with a pointed look at Nova.
Sensing Helen’s indignation, Chai quickly intervened. “I understand perfectly. However, your work will have to wait for another day. Helen and I are the only ones available.”
The chocolate Draik’s expression darkened with irritation for a moment. There was a brief pause before the noble came to a decision.
“Fine but it’s coming out of your pay if that Petpet does any damage,” the Draik noble said.
“Yes, we understand,” Chai agreed.
Finally, the noble led them to an open area where supplies were placed. She wanted a shed built, she explained. With a final sniff of disdain, the Draik left them to it.
“I have no idea how to build a shed,” Helen said.
“I didn’t think you did. It’s a straightforward sort of thing. It should take no more than two hours,” Chai said.
True to his word, Chai directed Helen in the work. First a foundation was laid, then the walls and the roof. It took an hour and forty-five minutes to do. The chocolate Draik was pleased with the work and paid them handsomely. Helen was more excited to leave.
By the time Helen got home, the sun was beginning to set.
“Finally, we can relax!” Helen exclaimed, wagging her tail.
Then, there was a knock at the door. The Gelert’s heart sank as she went to open it. An orange Krawk stood there. A wagon was in the road behind him. When Helen explained about Galen, the Krawk was not happy.
The Krawk’s yellow eyes were hard and his mouth was tight. “This can’t be put off. This statue needs to be transported today. I can’t have an inexperienced girl in charge!”
Helen suppressed a growl, stung. She hated to admit that the Krawk may be right. To her surprise, the Krawk tried to charge past her, demanding to see Galen. She blocked his entrance and held his gaze. After an uncomfortable moment, the Krawk backed down.
“It seems I have no choice. The trip to the museum is a short one. It’s just the statue is valuable and I had hoped to ensure a safe delivery with your brother, who I was told was reliable,” the Krawk said pointedly.
“He is highly reliable but like I said, I can handle it,” Helen said firmly.
“I hope so.”
With a short nod, the Krawk was gone. Helen got into the wagon and set off for the museum. It was a clear night. Everything was going well and Helen hoped it would stay that way. She allowed herself to get lost in thought and didn’t see the attack until it was too late.
Helen was taken completely by surprise, thrown from the wagon by the impact and into a side alley. Her arms were pinned and she knew it was useless to struggle. There was pressure on her torso and she fought for breath. She went limp and the tight grip loosened.
“I’m going to take that statue now, little girl and there’s nothing you can do to stop me,” a voice hissed.
Helen whimpered, knowing the voice, whoever he was, was right. She couldn’t fight him. She had no idea how and she was too weak and scared to protest. Her attacker left the alley and Helen rose shakily to her feet. She was surprise to hear, not the clop of hooves and creak of wagon wheels but a strangled cry of pain instead.
The shadow Gelert walked to the edge of the alley, slowly and cautiously, hindered by her bruised and battered body as well as the uncertainty of what she would find. To her very great surprise, a familiar figure sat on the wagon instead of the would-be thief.
The siblings embraced. To be reunited with Galen was sweet indeed.
“What are you doing here?” Helen asked.
“I should be asking you the same thing. Chai came to see how I was. I finally felt like myself again and he told me what you did today. I knew I had to come find you and I’m glad I did,” Galen said.
“I’m glad too.”
It was then that Helen saw a green Hissi knocked out in the back of the wagon. She shuddered, giving her brother a grateful look. She hated to think how badly things had gone. It was wonderful to have her brother back to normal. He had saved the day, as usual!
It didn’t take long to find a guardsman to take the Hissi off their hands. Then, the brother and sister finished their delivery and got themselves home.
“I’m proud of you, Helen. I’ll admit, when Chai told me what you did today, I was shocked and horrified and disgusted with myself. I never wanted to see you work and certainly not as hard as I do. I felt that I had failed you by putting you in that position. Then Chai told me that I was being ridiculous and about how well you managed today,” Galen said.
“Oh, Galen! I had no idea what I was doing all day! I hated the thought of disappointing you. I know how important it is to you that we stay happy and secure in our home,” Helen said.
“I’ve been thinking, Helen. We’re in this together. From now on, we’ll both make decisions about how much we work.”
“Really? Then I say we should have one rest day a week.”
“Oh, and Galen, let’s have that break day tomorrow.”
“You’ve got it.”
Having come to an understanding of their now shared load, the siblings headed off to bed. They had learned a lot about each other that day. Sharing the load would be far easier than one of them taking all of the responsibility. There was still work to be done but now it would be done together.