Catching a Star
Faerieland. Before the Fall, it floated in the clouds and is considered to be one of the safest-if not the safest region in Neopia. Built of clouds, pink stone and gold with magic to hold it all together, it was not considered the easiest or cheapest place to reach, unless you were a faerie of course. Yet, it has always been a popular destination, drawing all those with a love of faeries or magic or both. Unfortunately, on this day, it drew someone with a less than friendly intent.
A baby Yurble strolled through the clouds without a care in Neopia. His green eyes took in the sights around him with a wonder of a child, a plushie Ona held in his arms. Strangely, he appeared to be alone. The poor innocent baby; he didn’t know what was coming for him. On he strolled, a gleam in his eye, a smile on his face and a spring in his step…but not for long.
* * * * *
In the years Lofty had travelled Neopia, he made friends wherever he went. Babies are hard to resist and this worked in his favour. It was no surprise that he was a favourite of the faeries. No matter where he was, if he needed one, a faerie would be there. They welcomed him to their home in the skies and he rather liked the atmosphere there (no pun intended).
Lofty had that natural ability to make himself at home anywhere but even if he didn’t, Faerieland was an easy place to love. The white of the clouds could almost be mistaken for snow which reminded him of his beloved Terror Mountain while his blue fur blended in with the bright sky. The weather was kept magically consistent with clear skies and sunshine with perhaps the occasional playful breeze sweeping through. This day was no different from any other he had spent in Faerieland. Or so he thought.
Stopping at a local bookstore with a selection of books in an outdoor display, he set his plushie Ona, Buddy atop the nearest pile while he checked them out. Finding a couple of volumes that sounded interesting, he tucked them under one arm and turned back to find Buddy. To his horror, the spot he’d placed Buddy was empty! With a gasp, he dropped his books, looking wildly around in the hopes that perhaps his friend had merely fallen to the ground. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Buddy was gone!
Lofty didn’t panic, green eyes scanning the area. The street was crowded with faeries and Neopets alike going about their day. Then, he noticed a starry Zafara walking casually through the crowd. She stuck out in her dark clothes and she didn’t appear to be in a hurry to reach a particular destination, nor was she looking around at the buildings with awe. She was no tourist, clearly nor was she a regular of Faerieland; this was confirmed when she slipped down the nearest alleyway that Lofty knew for a fact led nowhere of interest.
Lofty weaved his way through the crowd and reached the alley where he saw the Zafara nearing the other end. “Hey, wait!”
The Zafara did not wait, opting to take off instead.
Lofty frowned and picked up his own pace, determined not to let her get away. He raced effortlessly down the alley and back out into an open street. Swift and with an intimate knowledge of the city, he managed to catch up to the Zafara with the help of a few shortcuts. He had her trapped against a wall too tall to climb. She whirled to face him and Lofty saw Buddy clutched in her hands.
The Zafara didn’t look panicked though. With an agile leap, she bounced off the nearest wall and over Lofty’s head. With the way now clear, she took off.
Lofty wasn’t going to let her get away that easily!
The chase continued through Faerie City. Blessed with speed and endurance by his faerie friends, Lofty knew he could keep this up indefinitely. Though, the same could not be said for the Zafara. An hour later, at their high speed, the nonstop running was beginning to take its toll on her. Then she turned down another street and Lofty knew he had her.
Lofty slowed to a walk to see that the Zafara had reached the cloud wall that surrounded Faerie City. It was too thick to get through, too soft to climb and there was nothing for her to leap over now. There was nowhere for her to go. Once more, the Zafara faced Lofty, Buddy still in her grasp. Her earlier cool was gone to be replaced with shock.
“You caught me!”
* * * * *
Lucky Star couldn’t believe it. She had never been caught before. She had thought that stealing from a baby would be easy and it had been. What she hadn’t expected was for the baby to come after her. She had outrun others before and always gotten away.
Not this time.
“Give Buddy back, please,” the baby Yurble said firmly.
Lucky Star shook her head. “But how? I’ve never been caught before!”
The baby Yurble shrugged. “I’m fast and you have someone important to me.”
Lucky Star gaped at the baby before in for a moment and then dropped her eyes to the plushie she held. It was a bit patchy and unevenly stuffed. It was no more remarkable than any other she’d seen. She looked back up at the baby Yurble. “It’s just a plushie. Just get yourself a new one. I’ve seen loads bigger and better than this one.”
“Not to me.”
Lucky Star frowned. What was she missing? “What’s so special about it?”
“Give him back to me and I’ll show you.”
Lucky Star didn’t trust anyone easily. This could just be a trick to get his toy back. Yet, there was an openness in this baby’s green eyes that she had never seen before. Besides, she didn’t need it. She handed the plushie over.
The baby Yurble squeezed the plushie Ona in a big hug with a sigh of relief. Then he smiled at Lucky Star. “Thank you.”
This was getting more shocking by the second. No one had ever thanked her before. “Um…you’re welcome?” She nodded her head towards the plushie. “So, you gonna tell me why you care so much?”
“We do everything together and that’s why I call him Buddy. I don’t know what it’s like to be without him because I’ve had him for as long as I can remember. We’ve travelled Neopia together. He’s not just my plushie. He’s my best friend.”
As the baby Yurble-who told Lucky Star that his name was Lofty-continued to talk, she came to understand that every stitch held a story and Buddy wasn’t just stuffed with cotton but with memories. For the first time ever, she felt bad for stealing something.
“I’m, uh, sorry for taking him. I didn’t know any of that,” Lucky Star said.
Lofty looked up at her with his bright green eyes, cocking his head curiously. “Why do you steal stuff?”
Lucky Star was once more taken aback. Lofty was so direct. He wasn’t angry with her for stealing from him, had in fact been polite to her and there was no judgment in his expression. He didn’t accuse or condemn. He was simply curious.
Lucky Star found this rather refreshing.
“I steal because it’s fun and challenging to me. Because I don’t have anybody and I need to steal to survive,” Lucky Star explained. She had answered his question. It was her turn now. “Why are you painted baby?”
“I like being a baby because everyone is more open to a baby than they are to grown-ups. It makes it easy to make friends. I love travelling because I enjoy experiencing new places and making new friends.”
Lucky Star felt her breath catch. Lofty had looked directly at her and smiled as he said the word friend. No one had ever called her friend before. One didn’t make friends with a thief. So, she wandered Neopia with nothing and no one to keep her in one place. It was lonely but she didn’t know how to do or be anything else.
“I don’t know about you but all that running made me hungry. Care for a bite?” Lofty offered.
Lucky Star couldn’t believe it. Lofty had been nothing but nice to her even after she had treated him so poorly. “Um, yeah, I am,” she said, “but I don’t have any money.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll pay.”
Lofty led the way to a nearby café and they had some Faerieland Gourmet Burgers with a side of Faerie Chips and glasses of faerie punch and Chocolate Cloud Cookies after. Lucky Star had never enjoyed a meal more. Not because the food was well-made and absolutely delicious. Not because she was sitting outside on a beautiful day. It was all because she was sharing her meal with someone else.
* * * * *
Over lunch, Lofty got to know more about Lucky Star. He was an expert at getting others to talk about themselves, even those that were reluctant or uncertain where to start. He guided the conversation and it flowed easily. It helped that he was sincere in his interest and a friendly face. Being a baby really made a difference.
Food also helped.
At last, they finished their meal and the conversation naturally wound down.
Lofty rose to his feet. “I’m glad to have met you, Lucky Star. I’ve got somewhere I have to be but if you ever care for a different kind of challenge, let me know.”
Lofty left Lucky Star at the table and began to walk away, Buddy held securely in his arms.
Lofty smiled to himself. He had known the curious and bright Zafara wouldn’t be able to resist. Now the real fun would begin.