It’s Jak’s birthday, and Calex shows up with a mystical bithday quest for Jak to complete. Naturally, since it’s his birthday he’s bound to end the day younger than he started.
Jak’s Birthday Quest
“ROOOAWR!” There was a playful attempt at a roar as soon as Jak left the front door of his house. A moment later, something landed on the jackalopes shoulders and covered both of his eyes. “Jak! Of! Um! Jak’s House! You have been chosen for a most important quest!”
“Oh really now?” Jak grinned. The cream colored jackalope was wearing a tank top and jeans. Though, he had the sneaking suspicion he wouldn’t be wearing those for much longer based on what was happening. “So… Who is bestowing this quest?”
“That is of little importance!” The high-pitched voice of a child continued from here he was perched atop Jak’s head refusing to uncover his eyes. “For there is a map! But I must warn you! Only those with a pure heart can look upon the map and follow it to its destination where a great treasure awaits!”
“Uh huh.” Jak couldn’t help but snicker. “So… You gonna uncover my eyes Calex? Or are you just going to describe the map?”
“What!?” Calex demanded as he fell backwards off of Jak’s head and landed perched on his shoulders. “How did you know it was me?” The small orange kitten curled his tail into a question mark while he hung off Jak’s back.
“Well…” Jak looked up to glance at the kitten on his shoulders now that he could see. “Can you name anyone else who would randomly pounce me and start spouting off about quests?”
“Hnmmmm.” Calex thought for a moment. “Zeelo?”
“So I had a 50/50 shot.” Jak reached up to rub the kitten behind one of his ears. “Also, you two have completely distinct voices.”
“One of us could have been taking voice acting lessons.” Calex pouted. “You couldn’t really know.”
“Of course I can.” Jak grinned as he reached above his head, grabbed the kitten by the scruff and lifted him off his shoulders before holding him at eye level. “I’m magic.”
“H-hey! No fair!” Calex squirmed in Jak’s grasp. “You can’t just go scruffing people! That’s cheating!”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to be caught cheating.” Jak paused. “But pretty sure there aren’t any judges around in whatever game this is, so I’m good.”
“Jaaaak!” Calex whined as he continued to squirm.
“Oh alright!” Jak winked as he lowered Calex to the ground. “So… What’s this about a quest?”
“Yes… A quest!” Calex produced a paper that had been folded up into a small square. “Cause it’s your birthday! And you know, everyone has to go on a quest on their birthday. That’s just the law.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to break the law.” Jak could easily poke holes in Calex’s little act. But, in general he found it was more fun to play along. The two shared a certain delight in creating mischief. So wherever this was going there was bound to be trouble. And there was no way Jak was missing that.
“Yes… But again! I must warn you!” Calex handed Jak the paper. “The map can only be looked upon by those pure of heart! Only open the map if you believe you are truly ready to meet that description.” Calex paused. “Of course if you don’t open the map you’ll never complete your birthday quest. I’ve never seen anyone fail to complete the quest before… But I’m pretty sure something bad happens if you don’t do it. Like all birthdays everywhere get cancelled forever or something.”
“That sounds quite serious.” Jak did his best to keep a straight face. It wasn’t easy. “I guess I have no choice then but to open the map.” Jak began to unfold the map. Aware of the kitten watching his every move, he deliberately did the unfolding as slowly as possible. He could see the kitten twitching impatiently as worked. He finally unfolded the paper completely, deciding he had made the kitten wait long enough. Any longer, and there was likely to be a Calex sized hole in the sidewalk from the kitten bouncing up and down so much.
Jak was not surprised to find the map was a crude thing drawn in crayon. A lot of the shapes on it were difficult to make out. Though he didn’t have time to focus on that long. Suddenly, he felt his clothing starting to loosen on him. His jeans fell down around his ankles while his tank top started to feel more like a giant blanket. His antlers shrunk into tiny nubs as he grew much shorter and younger. After a few minutes, he was both the same age and height as Calex. Six and a half years old, and two feet tall. Jak was fairly confident he had been taller at six years old, but why sweat the little details?
“Huh… So this map is certainly something.” Jak spoke as he slipped out of his once fitting adult clothing. The small jackalope kid wasn’t too shy about being in his bare fur. A high tolerance for casual nudity was a common side effect of hanging out around Calex too long.
“Yes and…” Calex looked over the youthened jackalope. “Anything… Else you want to mention?”
“No… I mean, really just trying to make sense of this map. Is that a bush or a cloud?” Jak asked with a wide grin.
“A bush! It’s green! Why would a cloud be green!?” Calex demanded. “And you’re really sure there’s nothing else at all you want to react to?”
“Nope… Pretty sure I’m just interested in figuring out the map.” Jak continued to flash a wide grin.
“Nothing to say about the fact you’re suddenly a little kid?” Calex asked.
“I mean, it was pretty obvious with that whole pure hearted stuff you were talking about.” Jak gave a dismissive shrug. He was having a bit of fun at the kitten’s expense. Fair was fair after all! Calex was doing the very same to him. “Honestly, the whole suddenly a kid thing kind of stops being surprising after the fifth or sixth time. I’m more curious where you were carrying this map on you when you don’t wear clothes. It’s not like you have pockets.”
“That-“ Calex paused. “I actually don’t really know where I was keeping it.” He crossed his arms. “Maybe it was in my tail fluff? Or…” The kitten started to pat down his own body, confused even more than Jak about where he had produced the map from.
“So… How does this birthday quest thing work?” Jak asked. “I’ve never had one of these before.”
“Really? Not once?” Calex got distracted from his confusion and huffed. “Then someone at the Birthday Adventurer’s Guild has been slacking off. I’ll have to place a word in with management about this little oversight.”
“Oh there’s a guild? Who all is in it?” Jak asked.
“Well… Right now… I’m the one in charge of giving out quests. And also upper management. And marketing. Magical inventory. Front desk. We’re a little understaffed right now… So I have to be a kitten of many hats.”
“Oh my how terrible…” Jak paused as he considered something. “Soooooo, there are job openings at this guild then? I might be able to help out. I know a few people who might need some Birthday Quests in the future.”
“Really? That’d be great!” Calex’s tail twitched eagerly. It was so refreshing to have someone who saw eye-to-eye on these types of things. “We can go over the details of onboarding and training later. Right now… We need to complete your quest! Birthdays everywhere depend on it!”
“Okay, okay, let me just try to make out this map.” Jak squinted at it and then turned it upside down to see if it made more sense that way. Calex was slipping. Usually his props were a little better designed than this. He must have had really put it together last minute. “So… You said that’s a bush… And I think this box and the disconnected triangle are a house.”
“Right…” Calex nodded. “It’s that bush right there!” He pointed to a bush in Jak’s yard. “Which would make the house your house.”
“So, we’re already at the starting point of the map. That’s convenient.” Jak nodded.
“So is the mysterious power of the Birthday Quest.” Calex waved a hand in the air trying to appear mystical. It might have worked were he not a two foot tall adorable orange kitten.
“Alright I think I’m starting to make sense of it…” Jak studied the map. “So… We need to go… Down the street, turn left… Then cut through someone’s yard… And uh… Cross some kind of river? Then our destination is just a few blocks away?”
“That’s not a river, it’s a street!” Calex whined. “Though… Come to think of it, a river crossing segment would be way cooler. I wonder if… Nah, a bit too late in the game to start changing things. Who knows what it would break.”
“If it’s a street, why is it purple?” Jak held the map so Calex could see it.
“I maybe sort of ran out of black crayons and had to improvise.” Calex rubbed the back of his head. “For reasons. But worry not! For even if there are some odd coloration choices… At the end of your quest awaits a treasure of unimaginable value!”
“So what is it?” Jak asked.
“I just said it was unimaginable!” Calex flailed his arms.
“But could you imagine for a second that it wasn’t unimaginable?” Jak stuck his tongue out.
“I mean… Maybe? I… Think… How does… That work…” Calex froze up.
“Oh… Um…” Jak waved a hand in front of Calex’s eyes. The kitten wasn’t moving. “This is new… I may have broken him. May have to reboot him. How does one reboot a cat?”
“SHINY THINGS!” Calex suddenly came back to life and shouted.
“What!?” Jak pulled his ears down, the shout having been way too loud.
“Shiny things.” Calex nodded. “I imagined the unimaginable was imaginable and concluded the answer was shiny things.”
“Treasure is usually pretty shiny. That checks out.” Jak nodded. “So… You okay? You were cat-atonic for a moment there.”
“I’m fine! Come on let’s get going!” Calex grabbed Jak’s arm and tugged on him. “Adventure, treasure, and glory await!”
The two started following the path. As it mostly wound through Jak’s neighborhood it wasn’t difficult to follow. As Jak got used to reading the map more bits of it made sense. Soon they were out of his own neighborhood and had gotten to the street they had to cross. It was purple just like on the map.
“Huh…” While waiting for the crosswalk signal Jak looked up and down the street. “Going to admit, did not expect it to be purple in real life.”
“I told you I ran out of black crayons!” Calex flailed. “And I couldn’t have the real road not match! It’d have been way too confusing!”
“So the least confusing thing was to color an entire street purple?” Jak arched an eyebrow. “Wait… How did you even do that?”
“One square inch at a time.” Calex smiled as if that was an adequate explanation. “Signal will be green soon and we can be on our-“ He froze. “OH COME ON!”
“Is something wrong?” Jak took a step back, not sure where the outburst was coming from.
“Cat-atonic? Seriously?” Calex demanded. “Ugggh. I just got that. Why… Why would you subject me to that?”
“Oh… You’re upset about a bit of wordplay.” Jak briefly sighed, relieved it was nothing serious, and then immediately swapped to a mischievous grin. “Though I guess you were a bit late to the pun-ch line.”
“Yeah… Whatever…” The light turned green and they got about halfway across. “GAH! That one was terrible!”
“Part of me feels bad and thinks I should stop.” Jak’s facial expression indicated that this was a blatant lie. “The other part of me is highly curious about this delayed reaction thing… I really wish I had a stopwatch to time these.” He paused. “Shot in the dark? Do you have a stopwatch?”
“Where would I keep it?” Calex asked gesturing down at himself and his lack of attire.
“I don’t know! Wherever you kept the map!” Jak exclaimed as they reached the other side of the street safely.
“That’s a magical map! It’s completely different! They can just pop up… Cause magic and stuff! I can’t be expected to just produce a stopwatch out of nowhere!” Calex complained.
“And this map is really magic?” Jak looked down at the map, then up at the kitten he knew who made it, then back at the map. “Actually considering who made it, that actually makes sense.”
“Let’s just get going! We’re reaching our destination! Can’t you feel the spirit of the Birthday Quest calling?” Calex asked. “And what an incredible journey this has been.”
“We’ve only been walking for twenty minutes.” Jak pointed out.
“Twenty magical minutes!” Calex spun in place as he said it.
“Riiight.” Jak tried to resume a straight face. It was no longer possible to achieve. “I guess we should get going.”
“Indeed! But no more puns or I shall become very cross!” Calex huffed.
“Alright, alright, I don’t wish to invite cat-astrophe.” Jak’s grin somehow widened even more.
“That was my fault. I set myself up for that one.” Calex sunk into himself and just continued along the way.
“Awww, come on it’s no fun if you’re just gonna sulk!” Jak hurried after him.”
Ten minutes later, they had reached the destination on the map. The end of the quest, and the treasure were in sight. All they had to do was find a way to infiltrate the structure that was now in front of them.
“Calex…” Jak spoke up. “Isn’t this just Lockely’s house?”
“Is it?” Calex asked. “Or is it… THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” Despite it being a sunny day, there was a loud clap of thunder.
“Most things?” Jak asked.
“Look, they may be evil here but they have standards.” Calex gave a shrug. “Dark Overlords have to have a little class. If they just did everything that was bad they’d be no better than a common thug, or worse, a politician.”
“Point taken…” Jak crossed his arms as he looked over the house… Or the PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD! Then he noticed something off. “Wait… Didn’t Lockely’s house have kind of beige walls? Why are they all… Black?”
“What do you think used up all my black crayons?” Calex asked. “I had to make the place look the part. It was far too inviting to be THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” As he spoke, a bolt of lightning struck in the distance creating a clap of thunder.
“Okay, how are you doing the whole thunder thing?” Jak asked. I have to know.”
“Oh I’m not doing anything special.” Calex shrugged. “That just happens anytime you say the place’s full name out loud.”
“So anytime I say THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” A loud clap of thunder appeared. “Heh heh. Cool. THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD! THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD! THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” A crack of thunder followed each sentence.
“Careful, if you overuse it you’ll whip up a thunderstorm.” Calex warned. “Now then… We need to find some way to infiltrate this place. You’re the hero of this adventure. As the hero of this quest, it is up to you to figure out our point of entry, and how we might get past the dwellers inside so that we might obtain the treasure.”
“I see…” Jak looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he walked around to the front of the house and rang the doorbell.
“What are you doing!?” Calex demanded.
“Watch and learn. Jackalope Mind Trick.” Jak winked.
“Hello?” A fox in his early thirties answers the door. He had orange fur with black speckles on his limbs. He wore a pair of shorts and a button up shirt, as well as a band on his tail, a scarf and glasses. He looked down, seeing both Jak and Calex. “Ah… Jak… I see Calex has prepared a birthday surprise for you.”
“Yup. Sent me on a Birthday Quest and everything.” Jak nodded. “Even doing it in our birthday suits. Anyway… Lockely, We need to get inside so that we can conquer THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” Thunder cracked in the distance.
“The weather literally listed a 0% chance of storms today.” Lockely shot a look at Calex, who avoided his gaze.
“Well, I guess it just wouldn’t be an evil palace without unpredictable weather.” Jak shrugged. “So don’t suppose we can come inside?”
“Might as well.” Lockely opened the door further. “If I say no you’ll probably just try to come in through the window anyway.”
“Actually, I was thinking we’d probably use the skylight.” Calex piped up.
“I don’t have a skylight.” Lockely stated flatly.
“Huh…” Calex looked confused. “Then what did I use to get in and out when I dropped off the treasure?”
“Calex, there had better not be a hole in my roof.” Lockely reminded himself he was talking to children. But… Calex could get chaotic… And occasionally destructive.
“Oh I didn’t have time to bust holes into things, not with the other renovations!” Calex beamed as he and Jak quickly moved inside.
“What other…” Lockely poked his head outside and noticed the appearance of his house. “Why are my walls black!?”
“Jak, I think your Jackalope Mind Trick might be wearing off!” Calex broke into a sprint. “Quickly, to the treasure room before he catches us.” He then paused for a brief moment to look at Jak. “And don’t think I didn’t catch that last pun, I’m only letting it slide because I’m assuming your magic jackalope mind control powers only work with the puns.”
“Oh, the puns are definitely magical.” Jak nodded eagerly. “They all have fabulous pun-tastic effects.”
“You’re not even trying now.” Calex threw up his arms and walked towards the kitchen.
“What? They can’t all be gold.” Jak gave an amused shrug before following the kitten into the kitchen.
“Behold! The end of your quest!” Calex shouted. “The treasure room!”
“Lockely’s kitchen?” Jak asked.
“No. THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD’s treasure room.” A clap of thunder was heard outside.
“Sooooo, what kind of treasure are we looking for?” Jak asked.
“The best kind!” Calex leaped up onto a counter. “Alright… I’m gonna push the two treasures off one at a time, and then you catch them so they don’t break!”
“Okay…” Jak stood below the counter. A moment later a jar rolled off the side, he backed up and caught it, then barely had enough time to set it down to catch the second one. But, it was pretty easy to identify what they were. Cookie jars.
“And your quest is at its end. Birthdays everywhere are safe again.” Calex leaped down from the counter.
“I’ll be honest… I wasn’t sure where you were going with this… But this birthday quest thing is pretty great.” Jak popped the lid off of a cookie jar. “Is this a thing that happens every year?”
“I can confidently say that yes, this will happen every year from now on.” Calex grinned as he opened the lid off his own jar. Then, both children dug in, greedily eating up as many cookies as they could.
“Hey!” Lockely entered the kitchen. “Calex! You better have a plan to clean my walls! The HOA Is going to kill me and-“ He paused, seeing both kids with their arms and legs wrapped around cookie jars as they stuffed their faces. Upon seeing that they had been caught, both of them could only flash a grin that clearly meant they had no regrets. “You’re stealing my snacks now?”
“It’s my reward for my Birthday Quest!” Jak insisted. “You wouldn’t deny a child on his birthday would you?”
“You know, it is remarkably difficult to tell the difference between adult you and kid you. You know that right?” Lockely looked to Jak.
“That just means I know how to have fun.” Jak grinned. Then paused. “Huh… I feel strange.”
“Me too…” Calex muttered. “Wait… Lockely must have cursed the cookies as a last line of defense!”
Suddenly, both the jackalope and kitten began to glow. And then they started to shrink. They were getting even younger! They passed downward past childhood, becoming toddlers, and then infants too young to even talk.
“Squeak?” Jak gave Calex a questioning look.
“Mew?” Calex shrugged. Even if he knew why they had just regressed it wasn’t as if he was old enough to talk.
“Okay, so this is a thing that happened.” Lockely paused. “Wait…” He remembered Calex’s last words. “Why would you think I did this? And… Come to think of it… I didn’t even have any cookies in my pantry! If Calex isn’t behind cursed regression cookies then who is?”
“Ahhhhhhhh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Another high pitched voice laughed, it was similar but still easily distinct from Calex’s voice. “That… Would be the work of me! The true master of the THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD!” A brown kitten of six years old appeared standing atop Lockely’s counter as thunder soundered in the distance.
“Oh… Hi Zeelo, you’re here too.” Lockely didn’t sound even remotely surprised. “How did you even get in?”
“Skylight.” Zeelo replied.
“But there is no skylight?” Lockely looked up just to make sure there wasn’t a hole in his roof. It was thankfully completely whole.
“Then how did I get in?” Zeelo asked in confusion. “Anyway… I knew that eventually Jak would wind up spending time with you on his birthday! And then I saw these cookie jars! So I replaced the cookies with cursed cookies to make them younger! Afterall, everyone deserves a little birthday prank.” He paused as he looked over to the other kitten. “Calex was just kind of collateral damage.”
“You know, if you two are going to use my house to throw a birthday party you should at least ask, right?” Lockely facepalmed.
“What are you talking about? We did.” Zeelo seemed confused. “You don’t remember?”
Three days ago.
“Hey Lockely, we need to use THE PALACE OF ULTIMATE DOOM AND MALICE AND MOST THINGS BAD for a birthday thing.” There was a crack of thunder as he spoke to Lockely.
“That’s… Um… Nice?” Lockely had no idea what he’s talking about.
“Oh good he’s cool with it.” Zeelo gave a sigh. “I was worried he might not like the idea.”
“Yeah, glad that’s taken care of.” Calex nodded and the two kittens disappeared from sight.
“What… Did I just agree to? And how did they get into my house?” Lockely stared blankly at the spot the two kittens had occupied.
“Yeah, I think it’s fair to say I had no idea I was agreeing to anything like this.” Lockely spoke up.
“I see… I’m sorry if you didn’t understand our intentions.” Zeelo pouted slightly. “Sometimes I forget that you haven’t spent enough time as a kitten to fully understand our language.”
“I mean, you speak English, and I know what the words mean, they just never make any contextual sense.” Lockely complained.
“Well… I’d be happy to explain more to you.” Zeelo beamed. “But… I’m gonna be too young to talk for a bit until these wear off.” He leaped down next to Calex and grabbed a cookie out of the jar before eating it.
“You’re eating the cookie you know is cursed?” Lockely face palmed again.
“What? They’re good!” Zeelo spoke as he started to glow. “Besides, it’s more fun to play with the birthday boy if we’re the same age!” And those were the last words he mentioned before he was reduced to an infant.
The baby jackalope and two baby kittens had their fill of cookies, and then full of sugar, started some new game that mostly seemed to consist of some form of wrestling and playful biting.
“Uggggh.” Lockely looked between the three. “I’m the one in charge of taking care of you three until the cookies wear off and you turn back to normal, aren’t I?”
“Squeak!” Jak gave Lockely an encouraging smile.
“Great…” Lockely looked to the cookie jars, noticing there was one cookie left over in it. He slowly reached down towards the jar, before glancing at the other three. “Nope, too potent.” Lockely then slammed the lid over the jar and placed both jars on a shelf too high for the cubs to reach. “At least you can still eat solid foods…” He looked down to where the three infants were playing.
“Mrowl!” Calex rubbed up against Jak, and purred affectionately as he nuzzled the jackalope.
“Mew!” Zeelo joined in, joining the cuddling from the opposite side.
“I don’t need to speak baby to know what they’re saying.” Lockely sighed and then gave a soft smile. He bent down on one knee and rubbed Jak’s hair affectionately. “Happy birthday Jak. Hope it’s been a fun one.”
“Squeak!” Jak beamed happily. Despite his current condition he couldn’t complain. A day full of mischief and friends? What better thing could he have possibly asked for?
And to think… Now he’d get to help plan future Birthday Quests for the other three. Today had been a most enlightening and delightful day.