Dawn and Dusk vs the Bounty Hunter
I've had a lot of people ask me what it was like hanging out with Balthazar during our assignment on Famous Haunted Woods citizens, last year. Our fourth grade teacher Mr. Knack had even asked Mina and me about it when we started our History of Neopia’s heroes unit. (We were going to be required to do assignments on famous heroes this year!). I didn’t think an assignment we did in third grade would suddenly become so popular, but I guess I have a story to tell!
It all started…..
* * *
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Mina was still in class taking the makeup math test we both had missed last week. I took mine an hour before final bell and Mina was taking her test now. Our teacher thought it would prevent cheating or us switching places. Our babysitter had been informed and was going to pick her up in an hour while I got to hang out and study with Balthazar the bounty hunter. He was the subject of our assignment for Famous people in the Haunted Woods. Our friend Mordred was doing his on Magax. The teacher had let Mina and I do this as a group project because there weren’t that many famous people in the Haunted woods who were considered nice enough to be around.
Sophie and Bruno had reluctantly agreed to participate in it, where the ghost of Hubrid Nox was more than thrilled to be even considered as a mentor. The faerie Ilere had even been asked, but she turned it down. She really didn’t like being bothered. I was waiting for Balthazar to meet me; I could hardly contain my excitement. He was supposed to show me his work shop, teach me the ins and outs of bounty hunting and faerie bottling and how to avoid getting cursed by dark faeries. It all sounded really exciting! I saw him coming through the crowd of students who were also waiting for their mentors. Oh boy, he was taller than I imagined. I hardly reached his hip; he was practically the size of a mountain. It wasn’t hard to spot me either. I was a little white Vandagyre with big green eyes and jet black hair.
"You’re Wila?" The Bounty hunter questioned. "I’m Balthazar, nice to meet you."
He politely shook my hand and told me to hurry up; we had a busy afternoon of lessons in faerie bounty hunting and spell binding bottles to do. He also gave me the run down on what he had learned about my assignment from our student teacher. It struck me as odd that he hadn’t asked about my sister, however. That was when I had made the most amazing realization. Miss Simons hadn’t told Balthazar about Mina, because she didn’t even know about Mina.
Miss Simons had only been a student teacher at our school for a week and she had never been in our class. She had been shuffled between the kindergarten class and the first graders. She hadn’t come near our third grade class yet. Mrs. May had asked her to help with our assignments a few days ago by making permission forms and contacting our chosen Famous Citizens. She had never even seen Mina and me together in the same room and probably thought I was the only one. By this, I also realized Miss Simons probably hadn’t asked for the class list, and had just gone based on each student’s name that had been scribbled on top of our assignment forms. This probably meant the student teacher thought my name was Wila W. Nocturnus. This happened a lot, actually. (The W being for Wilhelmina 'Mina" Nocturnus.)
If the Principal had been asked to help our teacher, this wouldn’t have happened. He had gone to school with our mom and our aunts. Mr. Presch was the only one who could tell our mom (Molly) and her sisters Mia and Mora apart. He couldn’t tell us apart, but he was definitely aware there were two of us. He was just happy that our aunts lived in different parts of Neopia now. He could only imagine how much trouble two sets of triplets and a set of twins could be. Our mother was the only one of the triplets to have a set of twins; our aunts all had triplets of their own. Everyone liked to say Mina and I were enough trouble.
I’ll admit, I thought about spilling the beans to Balthazar that I had a mirror twin. Instead, however, I kept it to myself. I was curious as to how long we could fool someone who made it his life’s work to track things down. I just couldn’t wait for this weekend to start!
* * *
His work shop was smelly. It smelled like a thousand old gym socks and maybe stinky cheese. He assured me that he actually had a house somewhere in the Haunted woods and this was just where he worked. On shelves I saw bottled faeries; at least twenty. More air faeries than any other type. I asked him why some Faeries were big and others were small. He told me that would be discussed when we studied faerie magic and how to remove Dark faerie hexes.
I knew why he bottled faeries. The entire world knew why he bottled faeries. I did stop and ask him however, why he left the grey faeries alone. I mean this guy built his life on his dislike of faeries.
"I don’t bother grey faeries," Balthazar began, "Because their bottles would never be opened. I don’t like faeries, don’t get me wrong. Grey faeries, though, they have enough to deal with."
I stopped and puzzled at this rare sentiment. It was coming from Balthazar!
"Most grey faeries don’t have magic or not enough, to grant the wishes elemental faeries do." He said as he motioned to the already bottled faeries on his shelves.
It wouldn’t surprise me if somehow Balthazar felt sorry for grey faeries. I bet in all his years as an active bounty hunter, he saw other faeries picking on grey faeries much in the same way the dark faeries had picked on him as a kid. What surprised me about this was that he was capable of being nice to them. Or maybe it was just for the fact he couldn’t sell them to Kauvara’s magic shop. I decided I liked the ‘Nice Balthazar’ idea better and decided that’s what I would think, though that was probably not the case.
I looked at the walls and shelves. Everything had something on it. I found myself curious about the different types of nets Balthazar had hanging on the walls. He had explained that over the years the faeries had grown wise to his tricks and nets and had started fighting back against him. This had led him to develop special nets to catch each type of faerie. The water faerie net was the prettiest. It was almost a crystal blue, more than likely designed to blend in with a water faeries surroundings.
"You like that one?" He asked with a chuckle. "That one’s my favourite, too."
He took it down off the wall and let me hold it. He placed it right in my hands and let me look at it! It was even prettier up close. I felt bad for the faeries, but I was also envious that Balthazar had better nets than most bug and butterfly collectors or hobby stores. These must have been super expensive to design and build. I handed it back to him and we began going through the entire wall of nets. He gave me a long explanation for each. He had even caught a few faeries enough times to be on a first name basis with them using these nets.
The water faerie net was my favourite one. Knowing Mina, she’d love the air faerie net. This could be a problem for my prank, so I had made the immediate decision to tell her about the nets first and foremost when I got home. We would work on our prank strategy from there. I had also decided to take notes. When I asked Balthazar to repeat everything about the nets so I could take notes, he seemed over the moon delighted to talk more about his nefarious business practice. This made me uneasy about choosing a faerie for a hero if we ever did a project on Neopian heroes. I’m sure Mina would like to interview Judge Hog or maybe King Altador, instead of Naia or Illusen as we had discussed before.
So over the next hour, I took note after note as Balthazar cheerily talked about his career, his motto for life and even his past. I had given Mina a solid hour and a half of learning to do tonight after dinner. I could only imagine her reaction when I told her what I had done.
* * *
"You did what?!" Wilhelmina said flabbergast at what I had just told her. "Wila Dusk Nocturnus, you evil genius; we’re gonna be grounded for life."
I nodded and grinned. Her own mischievous grin etched itself across her face and I handed her the notes I had taken down earlier that afternoon. Operation twin-twist the bounty hunter was in full swing. We had just finished up dinner and had done our homework together, as was our nightly ritual. Now it was study time. I had already filled out the work sheet for the assignment. It was just a general knowledge questionnaire about our chosen famous citizen and their profession. I had Mina copy my answers, (it was to be expected considering we were doing the project on the exact same person.) I then showed her the notes, especially the ones on the faerie nets. I told her everything about them and described each as I had seen for myself. I was right; she was fascinated by the air faerie net. Balthazar however, knew I liked the water faerie net. So she’d have to play along to my interests because I was the twin who had initiated the prank.
So we studied nearly all night. Tomorrow was Saturday, so it wasn’t like we had to get up early to go to school. Mina would take her turn and hang out with Balthazar and I’d hang out with Mordred, (and more than likely get a lecture on why this was a bad idea.) after he finished with his famous Neovian for the morning. He had chosen Magax, which was really cool.
It was going to be an interesting day. I almost couldn’t wait for Saturday evening to roll around.
To be continued.