All the Kougra could think of was that the book must have slipped out of his backpack while he toured the Hall of Heroes last week, to get swept aside by that perpetually angry Yurble janitor like a piece of trash.
Nah, Jayson thought, disappointed in himself. That wasn’t exciting enough.
All the Kougra could think of was that the book must have slipped out of his backpack and through a swirling vortex into another dimension – containing Jelly World – where it was now being guarded by a fierce jelly Skeith. With laser eyes.
He smiled. Much better.
“And why would you be smiling, Jayson? Do you realize that a special edition, recently added, hardcover spell book is missing? And it was last in your care? I’ve been waiting for those spell books to come in for months, and as soon as they do, one of you grubby urchins goes and loses a copy!”
Jayson winced at the sharp edge to her voice as he was brought back to reality. “Sorry, Lisha. Ma’am – Miss – Miss Lisha.”
He stood in Meridell’s castle library now – which was as eerily quiet as ever – with only the desk between them to protect him from Lisha’s gaze. Generally, the tiny yellow Aisha was nice; yet as with almost all quiet people, when you crossed her, you were really in for it. Lisha’s books were her most prized possessions, and she had a very low opinion of Neopets who defiled or lost them. Coupled with the fact that Jayson was one of the castle children – son of Sir Ryan, the very muscled and egotistical red Kougra Knight who wasn’t actually very heroic – it wasn’t very surprising that Lisha was yelling at him now. She taught the Basic Spells course as part of the castle schooling curriculum for Pages who had just begun their training for Knighthood, and, unlike the other academic teachers, she was actually passionate about what she taught and expected her students to put in an effort. Naturally, this made her an unpopular teacher, even though she was one of the most likeable Neopets in the castle. Pages would rather swordfight or play with the training Unis in the courtyard than learn from books. She disliked her inattentive and immature students almost as much as they disliked her.
All the Kougra could think of was that the book must have slipped out of his backpack and through a swirling vortex into another dimension – containing Jelly World – where it was now being guarded by the fierce Lisha and her laser eyes.
“Jayson, you’re doing it again. Stop staring into space and focus on the deeply devastating problem at hand.”
Jayson came very close to explaining why he was staring into space, but he stopped himself. He figured Lisha wouldn’t really appreciate his creative fantasies, and she was a rather talented sorceress in a fragile state. He didn’t look forward to life as a Mortog.
“Yes, Miss Lisha. Sorry, Miss Lisha.”
So, here he was, going through his things for what felt like the hundredth time. Even though it was the only plausible solution he could think of, he really hoped that he hadn’t left the book back in Altador, where his mother had dragged him and his father for some “quality family time.”
His mother, the regal yellow Kougra from whom he had gotten his fur color, Lady Sarah, hadn’t realized how long and unpleasant the journey by ship would be, or that she was prone to seasickness. Upon arriving in Altador, they realized they hadn’t been specific enough when they asked King Skarl to talk with King Altador and allocate them a seaside location: they ended up with a room in an inn right next to the fishing district of the small port just outside of Altador, which smelled incredibly strongly of rotting fish. It was a journey of nearly an hour to get into the main city, where they toured such sights as the Colosseum, the Altadorian Archives (Lisha would have loved it there, he thought bitterly, yet he had found it a bit boring), and – of course – the Hall of Heroes.
Jayson had carried his backpack with him on those visits, because he needed something to do on the long carriage rides into and out of the main city, and Lisha had assigned him and the other children plenty of homework, most of it using the shiny new Magic for Beginners textbook Lisha had persuaded King Skarl to buy in bulk. He had had nowhere to drop the bag off once they got into Altador, so he had lugged it around with the heavy book inside to all the “magnificent and historical” places they had visited.
Even though clearly she wasn’t enjoying herself, Lady Sarah insisted that they stay for the entire planned week. They quickly ran out of places to visit, so it was the second time they visited the Hall of Heroes – the huge building housing nothing more but eleven boring statues and the remains of a twelfth – that Jayson looked back on now.
He even thought he knew when the exact moment was that he lost the book. He had backed idly into a corner, staring absentmindedly at the lights fixed curiously in patterns above the statues and fiddling with his backpack’s zipper, when he bumped into the angry Yurble janitor. His outraged outburst startled Jayson so badly that he ran over to the other side of the room to hug a disgruntled Lady Sarah around the waist, even though he was far too old for such behavior.
All the Kougra could think of was that the book must have slipped out of his backpack and through a swirling vortex into another dimension – containing Jelly World – where it was now being guarded by the fierce, perpetually angry, and very scary Yurble janitor, and his laser eyes.
Stop it, Jayson thought irritably. He had to focus.
It would have been so easy for the book to have slipped out then; he wouldn’t have noticed a difference in the weight of his backpack, for he had bought some heavy and perfectly flat rocks at the Perfectly Flat Rock Quarry earlier in the day out of boredom. And he had finished Lisha’s homework on the carriage ride over, so since that day, he’d never thought about the stupid book.
Until now. Jayson groaned at the thought of what would happen if what he suspected was true. Lisha would reprimand him worse if he came back later and told her that the book was somewhere in Altador. His mother would sadly shake her head and be disappointed, yet resigned – which would perhaps hurt more. She thought of Jayson as a lost cause, as far as schooling was concerned. He was almost eleven, and was very smart and unusually perceptive for his age, yet he seemed unable to focus in class and as a result did rather poorly. Nobody understood that the thoughts running through his head were unstoppable. Some called them daydreams; Jayson knew that they were bursts of ingenious inspiration.
Then Sir Ryan would denounce his son’s wandering mind and would then lecture him about how, while in training for Knighthood, time should be spent productively, mastering the gallant arts of sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat, in order to grow up to be a great and strong knight. Clearly these were areas in which Sir Ryan had lacked as a young Kougra, if his nonexistent record of heroic deeds was anything to go by.
Perhaps the janitor had found the book and kindly sent it back to Meridell for him? It was incredibly unlikely, especially since he hadn’t been listening when Lisha told them all to put their names and “Knight-in-Training, Meridell Castle” on the inside cover of the book. How anyone in Altador who found it could know it was Jayson’s was beyond even his fantastic daydreams.
The chance that the book had slipped out of his backpack after he had returned home and dumped his stuff on the floor of his bedroom grew slimmer each time Jayson searched the aforementioned Mess of No Return, as Lady Sarah called it. He sank deeper into the melodramatic despair that only a true son of Sir Ryan, known for overacting and underperforming, could feel.
Yet, just then, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye, hidden partially by a mound of dirty clothes and his bookshelf in the corner. He pushed the clothes aside to reveal half of what appeared to be something black and swirly. He pulled the bookshelf away from the wall and exposed the other half of the disc, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a vortex.
“No way,” he breathed, rubbing his eyes. When it didn’t go away, he pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
The vortex remained stubbornly in existence.
Quickly, Jayson threw on some of his practice armor – which had been lying in the opposite corner of his room – and grabbed his wooden practice sword, before disappearing inside the circular patch of nothingness without the slightest hint of hesitation.
He needed something to fight the jelly Skeith with, after all.