The Grumpy Ruki
The Halloween Ruki found herself standing in the middle of her parlour, a broom in her hands. Her antennae were flicked backwards and her beautiful grey eyes were narrowed in disgust. She was surrounded by Korbats that she had considered her friends up until that moment. All of them were collapsed around the room, having gorged themselves on the food that she had painstakingly prepared that day. Looking around at the ravages of a party gone wrong, the only thing that the Ruki could think was that her day was not supposed to end like this.
~ ~ ~
It was Korbat Day.
Althea had big plans for this day. Living in the Haunted Woods, she had several Korbats for friends and the kind-hearted Ruki had decided to do something for them. She was going to throw her first ever party. Not only to celebrate their special day but to celebrate the relationship that she had with each of them. In order to do that of course, she had planned on waking up early in order to get things started.
Though, for some unexplained reason, Althea’s alarm clock didn’t go off. She was sleeping soundly in her bed and perhaps would have stayed there for far, far too long if it hadn’t been for Tully, her faerie Chezzoom. Her Petpet scampered along the length of her body, startling the Ruki awake. She sat bolt upright in bed with a gasp. The sun was out and she knew she had woken up late.
A glance at the clock confirmed Althea’s fear.
“Nine o’clock!” The Ruki wailed, trying to move quickly and ended up getting herself tangled in her blankets, falling out of bed in the process.
Now an undignified heap on the floor, Althea forced herself to calm down while Tully hovered anxiously around her.
“I’m fine, Tully.” The Ruki reassured her Chezzoom who squeaked in reply.
Althea found her feet, tossing her blankets onto her bed before heading straight to her kitchen. As a professional baker, she absolutely loved to bake and had a list a mile long of goodies she was going to make that day. Unfortunately, she had to cross a few items off because she no longer had the extra hours she had hoped to have. With a large guest list, she knew she would be busier than ever before in order to get everything done. Not only did she have to bake but she also had to decorate for the party!
Already, Althea felt she had bitten off more than she could chew. She wasn’t sure if she would have time to get all of it done. So, she decided to just get to work. She brought out her kitchen supplies, calculating a hundred things in the process. Amongst everything else there were fresh apples, an assortment of berries, potatoes, pumpkin, butter, milk and flour.
The Ruki began working the dough, lots and lots of dough. Althea loved baking for several reasons: it was hands on, messy and the finished product could be eaten. Not to mention, no one could resist the lovely smells wafting from the oven that spread throughout the house. She was doing work that suited her and she was lost in the zone.
Althea was making two types of pies: beef and potato. The beef stew and the gravy got started on the stove and she chopped the potatoes into healthy chunks. With that out of the way, she began on the crust. As far as baking went, pies were her favourite. There was so much variety, not just the filling but the crust too. No one could resist her pies.
Including a certain faerie Chezzoom.
Setting the finished pies on the counter to cool, Althea looked sternly at Tully fluttering around the kitchen. “These are not for you. These are for the party later. Do not touch these pies.”
Tully looked innocently at Althea, her pale blue nose twitching like mad. She respected and loved her owner, especially her baking. The Ruki usually gave her Chezzoom tidbits or even baked her treats and as a result, Tully didn’t beg. Unfortunately, there was nothing like that today. The supplies were limited and the Ruki just didn’t have time for her Petpet.
Without much choice but to trust that Tully would behave, Althea got to work on the Korbat Grave Cake that would be the main dessert served at the party. Naturally cheerful, she always put her heart into everything that she did. There were three elements to a Korbat Grave Cake: sponge cake, chocolate cake and gummy Korbat tails. With all of her friends in mind, the Ruki made the cake larger than it normally was made. This was actually her first attempt at making this kind of cake and the only thing that gave her pause was the gummy Korbat tails.
Althea laughed at herself as she wondered how she would get the gummies to twist and curve around one another, keeping their shape as well as upright. She had to ponder this for several moments, playing with the gummy tails on the cake to test her different ideas out. Tully hovered around her, squeaking comments and not-very-helpful advice. Finally, she seemed to find something that worked. She used thin strips of wood with a small hoop that she threaded each tail through to hold it upright.
“There! That’s finished!” Althea smiled at Tully in satisfaction at a job well done when she glanced at the clock. The Ruki gasped. “Oh, look at the time! There’s still so much to do!”
The scones came next and while they were baking in the oven, Althea entered her parlour to begin decorating. Her home wasn’t really large enough for a party, now that she was looking at the limited space she had to work with. She pushed all of her furniture to the walls and brought out some tables where she would place the refreshments. She took a brief moment to get the scones out of the oven and place the tarts in. Then, she returned to the parlour to hang up the handmade banner that read Happy Korbat Day and blew up balloons, letting them drift around the room.
The Halloween Korbat stood in the middle of her parlour, studying the work she had done. That’s when she smelled something burning.
“The tarts!” With an agonized cry, Althea ran to the kitchen in the back of the house knowing she was too late.
The tarts were as black as charcoal. The Ruki tossed the ruined tarts into the trash. She felt like crying. She couldn’t make any more because she had run out of ingredients for them and she didn’t have time. There was only an hour left before her guests began to arrive and she still had pumpkin rolls and tombstone cupcakes to bake.
The time flew by. The first guest hadn’t even arrived and Althea felt tired. She had just set the last cupcake out on the table when the doorbell rang. From then on, there wasn’t a quiet moment to be found. Guests trickled in and soon the small parlour was filled to capacity.
For the first time in her life, Althea felt claustrophobic. Everyone else had a good time, talking and playing games while the Halloween Ruki faded into the background. She was mostly asked where the bathroom was and that the food table was running low. She felt as if she were being ignored and used. This was not the way she had imagined her first time as hostess would go.
The party only ended once the food ran out.
That’s when most of Althea’s ‘friends’ left. Her parlour was an absolute mess with the refreshment tables mostly empty with food and drinks spilt or thrown around the room (even on the ceiling!). There were three Korbats passed out in the room, all stuffed to bursting with the food she had prepared that day. Her naturally cheerful nature had evaporated and she felt anger beginning to boil over as she grabbed a broom to begin to clean up this disaster of a party. She tried to keep it in check but every look, every sweep of the broom made things worse.
Each sweep of the broom was one word and each word and each sweep became more aggressive until Althea was almost swinging the broom like a baseball bat. At “THIS”, the Ruki found that she had raised the broom high above her head and she was standing over one of the immobilized Korbats on her parlour floor. She glowered down at this so-called friend of hers. Suddenly, she couldn’t contain her anger any longer.
Filled with a wild urge, the Ruki gave a cry of rage. “Time to sweep the garbage OUT!”
Althea drew the broom back like a golf club now, prepared to strike the Korbat at her feet. However, she was stopped mid-swing by a cry of alarm. The Ruki raised her head to see Albus, shadow Korbat, looking rather taken aback at the scene he had walked into. She still felt disappointed at the way her party had turned out but the anger was beginning to fade. Slowly, she lowered the broom.
“I’ll just take that now,” Albus said, gingerly reaching out for the broom.
The Halloween Ruki sighed and turned away, unable to look at the shadow Korbat. “So, what are you still doing here?”
“I figured you would have a lot of work on your hands once everyone cleared out. I stayed to help you clean up.”
“I,” Althea began, half turning to look at the Korbat over her shoulder. “Thank you, Albus. As you can see, I was a little...upset.”
“Yes but that’s understandable,” Albus said with a light shrug. “I mean, who wouldn’t be upset faced with all of this?”
With the shadow Korbat’s understanding, the Halloween Ruki gave him a grateful look. “I don’t even know where to start.”
Albus smiled reassuringly at Althea. “Well, how about I get these three into a carriage and on their way home. Meanwhile, you get started on clearing the tables and the trash out. When I come back, we’ll go from there.”
With this plan in mind, Althea felt a little better. She was able to clear the tables and remove them from the parlour. When Albus returned, they began to clean up the food and trash littered around the room. They took down the banner and Albus took down all of the balloons gathered on the ceiling. Then, they placed all of the parlour furniture back in their proper places.
Finished, Althea flopped on her Fluffy Cloud Sofa with a huff. Tully had not helped but had been sleeping soundly on the back of the sofa while her owner and Albus worked. She stirred with a yawn and a stretch as her owner sat down. With a flutter of her wings, she was airborne and in Althea’s lap with a happy squeak. The Ruki was exhausted but managed to rub her Petpet’s head lightly.
Althea looked up to find that Albus was still there, standing in her parlour. She had expected him to leave, now that her house was now clean. She raised her eyebrows at him in a silent question. It was clear that there was something on his mind. Realizing he had her attention, he took a step forward so he was standing in front of her.
“The night is still young, Althea. Are you going straight to sleep?” the Korbat looked at the Ruki curiously.
“Bed does sound lovely. Why do you ask?” Althea was rather puzzled by Albus’ question.
“I was invited to two Korbat Day parties. The second one is just about to start.” Albus paused, giving Althea a moment to collect herself before he continued. “This party is to celebrate Korbat Day but all species are invited. Though, I completely understand if you’re all partied out.”
Althea hesitated, thankful that Albus understood how she felt. So, she rather surprised herself with her response. “All species, huh? OK, I’ll come.”
“Great then let’s go. I’m going to hire a carriage since it’s a bit of a walk, OK?”
“Wait, it’s still in the Haunted Woods, right?” Althea was surprised by this suggestion.
Albus laughed at his friend’s expression. “Yes, just not in Neovia.”
Althea nodded and then smiled, rising to her feet as Tully flew up with a happy squeak. “To be honest, I might fall asleep in the carriage.”
“To be honest, I might join you.”
As she expected, Althea did nod off. Though, it was only a light snooze and she roused as the carriage finally stopped.
“A cemetery?” The Halloween Ruki had not been expecting this but she nodded her head appreciatively as they walked through the wrought-iron gates.
“Yeah, it’s great because it’s like its own little community,” Albus explained.
“It sure is.”
The place was swarming with Neopets and Petpets of all kinds.
“So, Albus, what do we do first?” Althea asked.
“I’d like to introduce you to the friend that invited me,” Albus said.
“Lead on, then.”
It wasn’t long before they were approached by a beautiful silver Korbat, a Ganuthor padding silently beside. “Albus! Glad you could make it.”
“Your sleepy little neighbourhood throws a party what, twice a year? There’s no way I’d miss this!” Albus waved a hand to indicate the activity surrounding them.
“There’s food, there’s games and company galore. Just watch out for the open graves.” The silver Korbat winked at Albus and they shared a laugh.
“Sylvie, this is Althea. She also threw a Korbat Day party and I invited her here.”
“The more the merrier! It’s usually pretty dead around here.”
Caught off guard by the joke, Althea laughed along with the two Korbats.
“Oh good. You can smile. You looked so very grave. Let loose, enjoy yourself! Look alive!” Sylvie gave a cheeky grin. “Now, I’ve got to continue mixing it up myself. See ya later!”
Althea had a bemused expression on her face as the silver Korbat left. “Sylvie, I like her.”
“I knew you would,” Albus said.
“She has this way of making others comfortable, putting them at ease.”
“Which is why I knew you’d like her. Whenever I have a bad day, I visit either you or Sylvie to cheer me right u. So, when you were down, I knew Sylvie would do the same for you.”
“It worked. I do feel better.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m starving. I haven’t eaten all day.”
“You’ve been around food all day,” Albus pointed out.
Althea huffed and gave the Korbat a wry look. “Ah, the curse of the culinary professional. You’re so busy making food that you don’t always get around to eating it.”
“Then let’s do it now!”
It didn’t take long for them to find the food, with Tully leading the way. They ate Korbat Pasta and Meatballs with Korbat Veggie Plate and thick slices of freshly baked bread with Skeith Juice Cocktail to drink. With no seating to be had, they gingerly leaned against a raised tomb. There was silence as they ate, too hungry for conversation. Though, there was no end of things to watch.
“It’s rather ironic isn’t it, that it could be so cheerful in a graveyard,” Althea commented, nodding her head to the happy, smiling faces all around them.
A gaggle of children passed by, giggling like mad, making the two friends smile too.
“It’s almost like a carnival,” Albus said.
“Yeah but a safe one,” Althea added.
There were several games going on and the two friends began to walk around and try them out. Not a one was exclusively for Korbats. Althea was relieved and was able to play the darts game, a whack-a-Korbat game and a fishing game, amongst others. The only game she was any good at was the whack-a-Korbat game while Albus had done well at darts. They had both failed at the fishing game.
“Well, if this isn’t humiliating, I don’t know what is,” Althea said wryly.
The Ruki was referring to the pair of children who had played after them and won a grand prize.
“Well, at least we still get candy,” Albus said, chewing on Gummy Korbat Tails.
“Yeah, there is that,” Althea said with a grin.
The night was still young-at least by Haunted Woods standards-and the party was still going strong. However, Althea could feel herself beginning to flag. Her mood was back to normal and she could forget that her bad day had ever happened. All she wanted now was to go home and get some much needed rest. She sensed that Albus felt the same way.
“Let’s find Sylvie to let her know we’re off for the night,” Albus suggested.
They found the silver Korbat amongst a group of zombies. When she saw them, she let the zombies stumble on without her.
“Going home before you become zombies yourselves, eh?” Sylvie guessed, looking at first Althea and then Albus sympathetically. “It’s a good idea. You already look dead on your feet. Althea, you’re welcome to visit anytime. Same for you, Albus but you already know that. Hope to see you soon.” Sylvie hugged them both in farewell.
Once Althea, Albus and Tully settled in their carriage, the Ruki looked at the shadow Korbat with a smile. “I had such high hopes for today. When everything went downhill, those hopes died. You revived them, Albus. In a graveyard, no less! Thank you for bringing me to that party. It was exactly what I needed.”
“What are friends for? You would have done the same for me.” Albus grinned cheekily before continuing, “Are you all partied out now?”
“Yeah,” Althea responded with a sigh.
“Next up is Halloween.”
Althea groaned, “Don’t remind me!”