A Neopian Fable: Where The Fruit Chias Came From
Tom tugged at his sister’s arm as they were walking through the town. “Jessi, why are Chias such funny colours and shapes?” They had just passed a tomato Chia, carrying a basket full of shopping, and Tom was a curious young Kyrii.
“Shh, don’t be so rude like that; you might offend the poor Chia,” Jessi replied.
“But why?” asked Tom.
Jessi sighed, because Tom was full of questions like this. “Well, seeing as it’s a fairly long walk home, I’ll tell you a story I was told by an old Chia.”
Many years ago, there was an old Gelert who lived alone in a small cottage on the edge of the kingdom of Brightvale. His cottage was small and unremarkable, but the gardens and orchards surrounding it were some of the loveliest and most fruitful in the whole of Neopia. It was said that he had received a special sort of blessing from an earth faerie when he was very young, and that she had given him wonderful powers and magic for plants and growing. His particular pride and joy was his vegetable patch and kitchen garden, and his orchard of the choicest fruit trees.
His gardens were not unknown in Brightvale, and it was rare for a day to pass without someone edging along his walls and peering over them. Occasionally they would even come up to him (often making him jump, which particularly displeased him) and ask to buy some of his fruit and vegetables. Usually he would oblige, and take his visitor to the plants, and pick the produce himself. Much of what he grew was sent to the castles and ended up on the plates of the Kings of Brightvale and Meridell.
One day a group of young Chias was passing the wall of his orchard, and looking in they saw delicious peaches, plums, apples and pears growing on the trees. Unable to resist, they crept into the garden and around to the orchard and quietly as they could, they picked fruits and ate them. Some of the Chias strayed off to the vegetable patch, where carrots and asparagus and peas grew and picked those as well. But even though the Chias were as quiet as they could be, they could not keep the plants quiet. It was a very funny gift that the earth faerie had given the old Gelert, and she had given him the ability to hear plants. He knew that whenever someone other than he picked flowers, fruits or vegetables, they would cry out to him. That day he heard such a forest of cries he ran over and saw all the Chias.
Naturally all the Chias were very frightened and they would have run away, if it were not for the fact that they were frozen to wherever they were- in a fruit tree, beside a gooseberry bush and among the tomato vines and the bushes and beds all around. The old Gelert was so angry he did not say anything, but left the Chias stuck where they were. Later he came back with some garden twine and tied them to the plants they were on, just to be sure. As darkness fell, the Chias were feeling very sorry for themselves. One or two of them fell asleep, but the night was full of noises- the wind rustling leaves, a door or gate creaking or banging, and even the occasional snore. Then, several hours after darkness had fallen, a howl came from the woods, tearing through the silence of the night and waking the Chias who had managed to doze off.
“W... w... was that... a... Lupe?”
Wide awake, now, they peered into the darkness, terrified and hardly able to speak.
“What if it can smell us? We can’t get away...” they whimpered. Then another howl came, followed by another, sounding deeper and different from the last.
“More... more than one Lupe? Oh, please, no!” cried the Chias. However, even though howls came every ten or twenty minutes they never came closer, and the petrified Chias were unharmed.
The next day, one of the braver Chias told the old Gelert how frightened they were, because there were Lupes howling and they were afraid of what might happen. The Gelert frowned and stood silently thinking for a while.
“I could turn you all into garden gnomes. How would you like that?”
At once a chorus of “Please, no!” and “Oh, what would my poor mother say” and “Anything but that!” came from all the Chias who could hear.
“You should have thought about what your mother would say before you trespassed in my garden and ate all my fruit, you silly young Chias. However, it is clear you do not wish to be gnomes. I will set you free tomorrow morning, and what is more, you can be sure that you will not be nearly so tempting to Lupes then.”
After saying that, he went and touched all of the plants that the Chias were tied to, muttering something inaudible and stroking them. Then he marched off to his cottage.
All the Chias were rather puzzled now, wondering what was going to happen to them. Darkness fell and another night passed, punctuated with Lupe howls and frightened Chias moaning. It was not until dawn had broken that it became clear what fate had befallen them.
A torrent of giggles awoke a Chia on a tomato vine. “Hahahahaha... hee... hahaha.”
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re... you’re... a tomato! Hahahaha...” The giggling Chia collapsed into further laughing.
The other Chia looked down at himself. Sure enough, he was red and very round and had a shiny skin, although he couldn’t see very much of himself, so round he was. Then he looked across at the Chia who had addressed him.
“No worse than yourself, though- you’re a carrot!”
All around the garden, the light of the new day showed Chias turned into grapes, peas, peaches, apples, oranges, pears, lemons, limes, and even aubergines and a bunch of asparagus. A little later the old Gelert came out to see his captives.
“Ho...” He chuckled. “So it worked! And don’t you look fine now!”
“Please don’t pick me and eat me!” came a cry from an apple Chia. This new and terrible prospect made the Chias begin moaning again, but the old Gelert quickly interjected:
“Oh no, I was sure my magic would not be enough to stop you being Chias, and you certainly still are- you still have your little stubby arms and feet and mouths. You might just avoid a Lupe, I hear they’re not so fond of fruits and vegetables, but I doubt you’ll be mistaken for actual fruit and vegetables. And if you’re really worried, just start talking, then there will be no mistake.”
And with this advice, he began to free the Chias from their bindings. They needed no telling to leave the old Gelert’s garden and they were soon walking down the lane- some of them with a pronounced waddle, owing to their new awkward shapes. When they met other Neopets, they heard giggling and hurried on by as best they could. Back in the town where they lived, they were met by guffaws of laughter from the Chias they had known before. They told their tale, explaining how they had taken on their unusual appearance. At first they were met with scorn, but then the plain Chias realised how useful it might be to be a fruit or a vegetable, in order to avoid Lupes.
Understandably, no Chia wished to go into the old Gelert’s garden in order to be transformed, but later on a Chia pop was invented which allowed the transformation to be made easily (and tastily!). And thus the fruit and vegetable Chias began.
Tom looked incredulously at his sister as she finished the story.
“Is it true?” he asked.
“Hee, well, you decide,” Jessi replied. “It’s almost dinnertime, you know, and we’re almost home.”
Later, Tom was in the garden, picking an apple from the tree. “Eeeeee” came a squeal as he picked his fruit. He jumped and turned around, to see if anyone was there, and then dived, trembling, into a nearby gooseberry bush, getting severely prickled in the process.
“Please don’t turn me into a vegetable, oh please!” he wished aloud.
Then a chuckle came from above him. “Oh, you silly little Kyrii.” His sister laughed, clambering down from the tree she had climbed.
Author's note: many thanks to RD and Jessi for help and advice.