Hungry are the Darned

Author's Note: Enjoy the story and R&R.

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to or of Neopets.

Summary:

The Haunted Woods are sinking into the swamp, and the Esophagor is to blame. What are the citizens to do?


Although no one could say with absolute certainty, it was a widely acknowledged consensus that the Esophagor was one of the Haunted Woods' oldest residents. The wailing monster mostly kept to his swamp, not a recluse, but not a people person either. Chary to oblige the odd traveller traversing his morass when appeased with offerings of food to sate his unquenchable, unseen stomach.

This incongruity between his gruesome countenance and surprising social skills failed to quell the longstanding rumours whispered throughout the foggy moors. Just as his ancientness wasn't called into question, so too was it believed the Esophagor bore responsibility for the mysterious disappearances of Neopians that occurred in those accursed wealds. Malfeasance most foul, facilely swept under the rug in a region where shady dealings and cons overruled strict political order.

As of late, opinions concerning the Esophagor had reached a tipping point. Until now, the denizens of the forest largely ignored the sludge pile's intrusion. He simply existed, a tourist attraction or nuisance neighbour with whom everybody was forced to live and develop apathy towards, even if that neighbour happened to have some skeletons in his basement.

The western barrio of the Deserted Fairground suddenly sinking beneath the muskeg changed that. It never crossed anyone's mind that the Esophagor would be going through a midlife crisis.

Unashamedly, the wealthier Neovian landowners couldn't care less about the fate of the gypsy caravans and bucktoothed carnies, but there were greater powers still. The Brain Tree and Edna the Witch, threatened their acres and tower might join the muck, whipped up peasant mobs to sack the well-off manors. By feeding the nuggets to the slime thing, they presumed the encroachment would cease.

Once the quagmire claimed the south sector of the funfair, fattening the bayou squatter became priority one. Aside from the bandits, shopkeeps sacrificed their own commodities. After so many years coordinating quests alongside the Brain Tree, however, the Esophagor had grown accustomed to the aliments brought before him. Oven-fresh pastries like Ghost Toast, Bagels with Scream Cheese, and Spooky Doughnuts contributed to his querulous moodiness. Appetizers like Horror Doeuvres, Deviled Eggs, and Baked Intesteen reaped zilch.

The provincials tried mains. Blumaroo Steak with a side of Cole Slaughter, Hair Stuffed Maggots, Lizarkagna, Crypts of Spaghetti, and Droolik Surprise made him gassy. Entrées ineffectual, it was onto the sweets: Peanut Butter Spiders, Bleeding Heart Jelly Sundaes, and Pink Spooky Floss. Then drinks: Chilled Eyeball Custard, Frothy Fruit Juice, and Spooky Shakes.

Edna dipped rats in her bubbling cauldron to create technicolour grape, lime, and strawberry-flavoured almost-gummy vermin. Neopian philanthropists chipped in, surrendering rarer gourmet delicacies, including Eyeball Muffins, Pumpkin Scoopings, Parts on a Pizza, Cadaverous Cola, and Meerca and Quiggle Pie.

Chef Julien, the caterer of the annual Spooky Shindig Society's Spooky Food Eating Contest, submitted a soufflé. When his dessert went belly-up, the Tax Beast payers invited the uptight Chef Bonju, a master artiste from the distant mountain ranges of Shenkuu.

In the end, a kitchener not of this world felled the impasse.

Gargarox Isafuhlarg, a Grundo chef who'd descended the Virtupets Space Station, spent five days and nights concocting the ultimate Esophagor pleaser. Much Bloop ink was expended documenting the trailblazing formulas that resulted in his questionably meaty dish, which he served to his hoggish dinner guest posthaste.

And in the nick of time too. Leeroy was minutes from losing his Coconut Shy booth.

"MMMMMMMMmmmmmm Nowww essoophagorr happy!"

"Where did you get the idea for Snorkle Pudding?" Sidney, the scratchcard kiosk attendant, asked the green mess sergeant.

"Gotta be creative. You try competing with the Giant Omelette in Tyrannia! They're giving it away for free!"