The Keepers: Part One
As far as Neohomes in Brightvale went, Kendrick supposed, Uncle Arthur's was fairly basic. Quite large, which was odd, considering only Arthur lived there, and made mostly of a combination of wood and stone. It was very far away from any neighboring Neohomes, and the large yard was mostly overgrown. So much grass had grown between the stones on the path up to the house that it had taken Kendrick and his mother quite some time before they even noticed that there was a path at all.
"Now remember, Kenny, you can Neomail me anytime while you're here," his mother reminded him for what seemed like the thousandth time, having to actually fly up a little with her purple Shoyru wings to pat his shoulder. Kendrick was quite tall and lanky for a Shoyru, which was probably one of the reasons he was so awkward. He was also spotted, and had a large brown spot over his left eye. With his glasses on, it gave him the appearance of having a permanently black eye. That was part of the reason he grew out his hair - it made it less noticeable.
"And promise me -" his mother began again, but he stopped her short.
"I know, I know, I need to get a haircut."
His mother just smiled sweetly at him as they reached the porch. The front door was large, with a knocker on it that was a real working clock. Weird. Kendrick reached out a little and gave it a light knock. Much to his surprise, the noise was so loud that his mother let out an "Oh!" and flew backwards, and he began to understand why Arthur didn't have any neighbors.
This is going to be great... he thought sarcastically. A moment later, a very peculiar Zafara answered the door. He was glowing - though Kendrick had always suspected that it was a result of his many hours in his lab, and had nothing to do with a paint brush - with unruly hair and wearing a lab coat and Wellington boots covered in some blue bubbly substance.
"Little Kenny!" Uncle Arthur exclaimed, and Kendrick tried not to back away as his uncle came in for a hug. He didn't like the looks of that blue stuff.
"Hi, Uncle Arthur," he politely greeted once he was released. "Um... I don't really think you can call me little anymore though." He now towered over his eccentric uncle by at least six inches. Arthur simply chuckled his odd, high-pitched chuckle, and went over to talk to Kendrick's mother. Kendrick walked inside without asking, dragging his suitcase along grudgingly.
The house was much nicer inside than out, and considerably better kept. Shelves upon shelves of books lined the walls of the large entrance hall, and several closed doors seemed to be awkwardly wedged in between the bookcases. There was a large spiral staircase and a balcony, and he could see even more bookshelves up on the second floor. He let a smile escape. His rather nerdy appearance was more than just an appearance. He absolutely loved to read.
"Ooooh Arthur, Kenny's going to be a happy boy," he heard his mother say as she walked in behind him, "Why, you must have twice as many books as the last time we've been here!" Kendrick couldn't even remember the last time he'd seen his uncle's house. Whenever they saw him, they tended to meet somewhere. Kendrick's father, a rather paranoid fellow, was always apprehensive about visiting a house in which Arthur conducted so many questionable experiments. Kendrick found this slightly odd, since his mother was also a scientist. Then again, his mother didn't conduct her experiments at home.
"Well, thank you, Regina," Arthur replied. "It would be so nice if you could stay a while."
"Oh, no," Kendrick's mother replied. "No, I have to get going. Kreludor is a long way away after all," she winked.
"And you still can't tell us what you'll be doing?" Arthur asked.
"Oh no," Regina said. "It's still very hush, hush. I don't know why, myself. Some scientists are so..." but with another glance at Arthur, she paused, looking uncomfortable. "Well... eccentric." His mother had been approached by some scientists from Neopia Central, where Kendrick and his family lived, to join them on a three month long excursion to Neopia's moon. Kendrick's father was also invited along, but Kendrick was considered "too young" to be able to "keep scientific discoveries a secret." Not that there were many people he could have told on Kreludor.
Arthur just shrugged, detecting neither Regina's discomfort of talking about eccentric scientists nor Kendrick's frustration at the whole situation. "Well, I hope you have a good time." A bit more small talk followed, then Kendrick hugged his mother goodbye and was left standing alone with his uncle.
"Well," Arthur began, rubbing his glowing hands together, "I suppose I should show you to your room now, shouldn't I?" Without another word, he grabbed Kendrick's suitcase and made for the stairs, his long ears bouncing along behind him. Kendrick stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans and followed, looking around as he went. Arthur pointed to several different doors along the way, probably telling him where the bathroom and everything was, but he was too distracted by his mood and the literally thousands of books to notice anything his uncle was saying. Finally, Arthur opened one of the doors and led him into a small but quite pleasant bedroom.
There were no walls - well, not walls how most people thought of them - only bookshelves. Other than that, there was a decent-sized bed, a desk, and a large window and window seat completely lined in soft, plush pillows. The desk had a gaping hole in one of the top corners, and Kendrick suspected that the lab wasn't the only victim of Arthur's experiments over the years.
"Well, your Mom said you'd already eaten..." Arthur began.
"Yeah," Kendrick said. "Thanks."
"No problem. Ummm... If you need anything, just knock." And then he pointed to another odd clock knocker on the back of Kendrick's bedroom door and shuffled out.
With a sigh, Kendrick plopped backwards onto his new bed, not bothering to unpack... mostly because there was no dresser. He wondered if Arthur would stay so secluded the entire time he was here.
The crash or explosion was so loud it made Kendrick jump completely off of the bed in fright, cowering behind it. He felt his heart begin to race. He barely heard his uncle's responding, "Sorry!" from the floor below.
It was going to be an interesting few months.
The next day, after breakfast with Arthur, Kendrick decided to go explore Brightvale a bit. Other than Kiko Lake once and Uncle Arthur's once when he was ten, he'd never really traveled. He could see the castle the minute he got to the end of Arthur's grassy path and onto the cobblestone street. He supposed it would take a lot less time if he'd fly, but he had always enjoyed long walks.
He was just about to the main part of the city when he heard an odd noise coming from a nearby alleyway. Normally, he would've walked on, but for some reason the sight of the castle seemed to make him feel more adventurous. He tip-toed around the corner and took a look.
A poor little white Kacheek with glasses just like Kendrick's was cowering against the back wall of a shop, surrounded by a group of much bigger Neopets. Kendrick had been bullied his fair share of times, and felt instantly sorry for the guy.
"P-p-please, just give it back. I have to be at work soon," the pitiful little Kacheek begged. He looked about the same age as Kendrick, and was wearing khaki trousers and a plain white shirt with some sort of logo on it - apparently his work uniform.
"I told ya, Reidie-poo," a great big Eyrie teased, "You'll get your lunch back for 100 NP." Apparently he was the leader of the group, because the rest just laughed.
Just as the Kacheek sighed and started reaching into his pockets, someone tapped on Kendrick's shoulder. He flinched, fearing more bullies, but it was just a pretty pink Xweetok. He stared at her for a minute, confused.
"Well, aren't you going to do something?" she asked him incredulously.
"Uh-umm," he stuttered. What was he supposed to say? That he'd been bullied before and he was scared? Wimp. He gulped. She smiled. Feeling slightly nauseated, he walked around the corner and said, "Hey!"
The group went simultaneously silent and looked at him, and he felt his little bit of courage disappear. They looked at him expectantly. "Ummm... Just... give him his lunch and get lost, please."
There were a few seconds of silence, and then a collective burst of laughter. "Please?" the Eyrie teased between chuckles, "Seriously?"
Their laughter made him embarrassed, and angry, "Yeah, seriously. What'd he ever do to you anyway? Just leave him alone."
The little white Kacheek was looking up at Kendrick as if he'd never seen anyone like him before, and then he too turned to the bullies. "Y-yeah. I'm not giving you anything."
The bullies looked confused. They obviously weren't used to being stood up to.
"Plus," a third voice said, and the pink Xweetok showed up from around the corner, looking surprisingly threatening with her paws on her hips, "I don't think Aunt Ren would be too happy to find out about this, Pace."
Pace must have been the Eyrie, because he glared at her, but then threw the little Kacheek's lunch back at him. It hit him so hard it knocked him off his feet, but Kendrick could see his relief nonetheless. The bullies walked off looking disgruntled. The little white Kacheek walked over to Kendrick and the Xweetok timidly and uttered a small, "Thanks... You're really tall for a Shoyru."
"You're welcome," Kendrick said, still shocked that he had actually done it. "And yeah, I guess... um... I'm Kendrick." He had to hunch down to shake the Kacheek's hand.
"I'm Reid... and I guess you've already met Adrina." The Kacheek thanked her too, then bid them both goodbye to go back to work.
"Umm... Well I'm..."
"Kendrick," she finished for him with a smile. "I'm Adrina."
"Umm... yeah." Something occurred to him suddenly. "Hey, if he was your cousin, and you could've just told him what you told him... why'd you ask me if I was going to do anything?"
She shrugged and pulled her long, pink hair back. "I guess I was just curious."
Adrina spent the next hour or so showing him around the city, which he found amazing. They ran into Reid again at a bookshop, which was apparently where he worked. When he walked back to Uncle Arthur's that night, he felt both happy and proud. He'd stood up to a group of bullies, something he'd never been able to do in Neopia Central, and possibly made a couple of friends. Brightvale wasn't so bad after all.
To be continued...