Author's note: The only Neopets I own are the ones on my account. The honor of owning the site goes to the wonderful people that created it. And we're all grateful for their hard work. Also, yes, my pets ARE this weird.
Rugiler sighed as he shifted in his cage. The wooden shavings were MEANT to make things softer, and protect from the icy coldness of the cage bottom, but REALLY! Were they supposed to be this uncomfortable?
Comfortable or not, there was nothing the Zafara could do about it. It was either deal with it, or... deal with it. He winced as he pick his way over to his food and water bowls, the accursed wood chips biting into the tough pads of his feet.
Ugh. Kibble again. Not that he had ever gotten anything different in the pound, but you would think they could give you a little variety once in a while, right? He took a sniff, and recoiled. He had been given the Kacheek and Usul kibble again. They got so few Zafaras in, that they didn't bother buying the brand especially for them.
The only thing that he did to express his displeasure was to grunt, though. No one could do anything about it, so, again, it was back to the "deal with it" motto.
His stomach protested at the invasion of the wrong kind of food, so he drained his water bowl to keep it down. It didn't hurt that it helped to wash the taste out, either.
The disgruntled Neopet limped over to the corner of his cage that contained a blanket for a bed, and plopped down unceremoniously. After a few licks to each foot, to ease the soreness, he tried to find a comfortable position. Again, those annoying wood chips bothered him. It wasn't enough that they had to hurt his feet, but did they have to poke up against the blanket?
After finding a relatively comfortable position; curled up like one of those earth cats he had seen in a book once; he tugged his tail close, and rested his head on it. Even the spines were softer than those wood chips. With another annoyed grunt, he fell asleep, and his recurring nightmare began again.
"No! Momma, why are you leaving me here?" The slightly younger Zafara rose up on his hind legs, and entreatingly put a paw on his owner's pant leg.
The Neopian, barely more than a girl, knelt and gently enfolded him in a hug. "I'm sorry, Rugiler. I have to leave... my mother is very sick, and I need to go stay with her, and take care of her."
The small pet's body shuddered with barely hidden sobs. "But who will take care of ME?"
She gently rubbed him behind his ears, in the special spot he liked to have rubbed. "Just be good, and I'm certain you'll find an owner that will love you." With that, she rose, paid the fee, and silently left.
Rugiler's nose brushed the tops of his paws. "But I won't love them... I swear, Momma, that I won't love my new owner."
Rugiler awoke panting, and drenched in an icy cold sweat. That dream again. Why did he keep having it? He was over being abandoned. He understood THAT. And he knew that his Momma wouldn't be coming back. So why did that dream haunt him?
Since being left in the pound, Rugiler had been adopted to five different homes. Each time, he had been brought back within a week. Now, word had spread, and the pets in the pound all took care to warn potential owners that he would have none of them. Usually, it was Rugiler himself who requested to go back to the pound.
With an annoyed sigh, and a few mental curses about the unfairness of life, he decided to try to get some more shut eye. The pound had just opened, but as he didn't count on getting adopted out, catching another ten winks or so before things got loud and crowded wouldn't hurt.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
A few minutes after he had gotten comfortable again, and had closed his eyes for his nap, he heard a male voice say "Hello."
He opened his eyes, about to tell whoever had interrupted his nap to go away, and jumped back with a surprised yelp, pressing against the back wall of his cage.
Staring at him were a pair of glowing crimson eyes. Attached to them was a now apparently very amused ghost Draik. So amused, in fact, that he was rolling on the cage floor, laughing his head off.
"What was that for?" Rugiler demanded, which for some reason made the Draik laugh even harder. The Zafara was now seriously doubting his sanity.
"Hey! Silver! I got a live one here for ya!" The Draik called outside of the cage, and about a minute later, the face and shoulders of a teenage human girl appeared in front of the bars.
"Tideorous, what have I told you about going in the cages and scaring the other pets?" She lightly scolded, as the Draik slipped right through the bars, and leapt onto her shoulder.
"Sorry." The Draik said, not sounding sorry at all. On the contrary, he sounded downright pleased with himself.
Rugiler shifted uncomfortably, as the teen's attention was now focused on him. He didn't know what it was, but something in her eyes made him feel weird. Right, almost.
"This one?" She asked Tideorous, who was now coiled around her neck like some scaly piece of jewelry, his chest, forelegs, and forepaws resting on her left shoulder.
"Yep! I like him! He's silly!" This was accompanied by a series of quick nods that left Rugiler dizzy. Somehow, he suspected that it wasn't in this Draik's nature to stay still. Even while resting, the end of his tail twitched madly.
Silver reached out and depressed the two tabs keeping the cage door closed (think like something on a dog or cat carrier), and swung the door open. Reaching in, Rugiler felt gentle, firm hands pick him up, one hand supporting his chest, the other supporting him under his tail. There was the sensation of moving through the air, and then the small Neopet felt himself being held against a larger, warm body.
"Is it alright with you if you're a lab pet?" Silver's voice sounded in his ear, which twitched at the tickling sensation of her breath.
"Does it hurt?"
Tideorous laughed, which hurt so close to his big ears. "Naw, it don't hurt. I went for a while, before Silver got me a morphing potion."
Rugiler thought it over. Maybe being something other than a Zafara would be nice for a while. "Feh. Why not?"
A low chuckle shook Silver's chest, and the movement transferred to Rugiler. Silver shifted him so that she could close the cage, and the carried her precious load up front. There was barely even a line, as it was still relatively early in the morning. This made Rugiler ponder where they lived, and how far it was. This lead to thoughts of what kind of house they had. This in turn lead to thoughts of if Silver had another other pets besides Tideorous. Speaking of whom, the Draik was now energetically dashing from one shoulder to the other, and occasionally detouring to the top of Silver's head. Rugiler wondered how she could stand it.
After filling out the paperwork, and paying the adoption fee, Rugiler felt himself being carried out of the pound, something that had never happened. He had always been made to walk.
"You're gonna like it where we live. Our home is a huge system of underground tunnels. You'll have to be lead around until you get to know your way. Don't worry, the tunnels are big enough to let you through. They have to be big, so that Silver and Ruinaea can walk without getting back cramps. You're gonna like Ruinaea and Ryuou. Ruinaea is an electric Eyriess, and she's pretty shy, but really sweet once you get to know her. Ryuou is a shadow Kougra, and he's pretty moody at times, but he's really laid back, too. Though that would be a contradiction, right?" Tideorous said all of this very fast.
Rugiler's head was spinning. Things had happened very quickly, and Tideorous blabbing away in his ear didn't help. All that he had been able to gather was that there would be two more pets sharing the house with them.
"Tideorous, please try to contain yourself. Rugy will need a little time to adjust, and you're not helping matters." Silver said with a sigh.
"Ugh. Fine." Tideorous pouted as he plopped down, but the expression didn't hold, as less than a minute later, he was bouncing all over Silver's shoulders again.
Finally, Rugiler's mind had been given an opportunity to sift through all this information. "What did you call me?"
"Rugy. I can call you something different, if you like."
"No, no... Rugy is fine." This was the first time that he had been given a nickname, and he didn't know quite what to think of it.
"Don't worry, all of us have nicknames. Silver's full name is silver_grypheonix, but that's too long, so we just call her Silver. Everyone calls me Tide, Ryuou's is Ryo, and Ruinaea's is Maddy."
"Short for Madhea, her full nickname. She read it in a book somewhere, and liked it. Only friends and family can call her that, though."
"Oh..." Again, Tide spoke too fast for him to get more than the gist of it. A hand gently massaged the fur on the back of his neck and his shoulders, and suddenly he felt better.
"Hey! Maddy! Over here!" Tide jumped to Silver's head, and raised up so that he was on his hind legs. The tiny dragon proceeded to wave with one arm, shouting to gain the Eyrie's attention.
Once she had pushed her way through the crowd, Rugy had to conceal his surprise. Most Eyries were the size of an earth horse, but this one was more the size of a smallish pony. Where most Eyrie's shoulders would be even with the top of Silver's head, Maddy's only came to her chest. Silver shifted him to one arm, so that she could rub Maddy's ears in greeting.
Rugy soon found himself being scrutinized by piercing amethyst eyes. "So you're the new one, eh?"
He shifted nervously. "Uh... yeah..."
She gave a soft sigh, and a small smile crept across her beak. "Welcome to the Insane family."
Rugy gulped, and Silver chuckled. "Maddy, stop scaring the poor thing. Now come on. I hate to think of what's happened to the house."
"Ryo's there." Maddy said defensively as she moved so that she was standing broadside to them.
"That's what worries me." Silver pointed out as she lifted Rugy to the Eyrie's back. He hunkered down in her mane, and wrapped his forelegs as far around Maddy's neck as they would go. He felt a small heave, and a warmth behind him signaled that Silver had gotten on. She reached forward and held him in place, which helped to calm his nerves.
He knew that Unis were sometimes used as riding animals, with their consent, but he had neverseen anyone ride an Eyrie. They were usually too proud for that.
Rugy's heart and stomach lurched down into his feet, and he felt the air whistling past him. He chanced a look over Maddy's shoulder, and had a dizzy spell as he saw the ground whirling around in circles, far below. He fought down a wave of nausea, and pulled his head back, closing his eyes as he did so. Silver sympathetically rubbed his back, and he felt better.
After a couple of minutes, the world stopped spinning, and he felt that they were moving in one direction, instead of in circles. He slowly opened his eyes, and saw clouds level with them, as well as a very happy Tide, who was doing some very impressive aerial acrobatics. Rugy wondered how he was able to do that without getting sick, as he watched his new brother perform a triple loop-the-loop, followed by a tight corkscrew.
The up and down motion of flying was soothing, and Rugy fell asleep to it.
To be continued...