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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 16th day of Eating, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 84 > Short Stories > The Travelers - Courage

The Travelers - Courage

by supergirl309

Untitled Document

Three weeks. It had been three weeks since Lao, Tila, and Dane had set off on their journey for purpose. Already, the crisp cool of fall was beginning to set in. The leaves on the surrounding trees were flushed with warm orange, and acorns littered the ground. The three travelers were enchanted by the fiery forest, but not so with the acorns.

     "Blasted things!" Lao muttered, landing a paw on the sharp point of an acorn. Dane plucked one up from the ground then shoved it between her teeth and started chewing.

     She spat it back out in disgust."Ugh, these things are completely useless!"

     Tila wrested a burr from her thick red fur. "I've had enough of the forest for now," she moaned, another burr grappling at her fur.

     Lao grinned. "Well, I don't think you'll have to worry about that much longer, Tila. If my eyes aren't playing tricks with me, I think there's a town up ahead!" he said, pointing at a break in the trees.

     Tila let out a relieved sigh. "Thank Fyora!" she muttered.

     They raced for the town, and were quite shocked to see that the streets were vacant. They began to walk around on the cobbled roads, looking for any definite signs of sentient life. Then, Lao spotted the poster.

     Nailed to a thick oak limb was a rumpled yet readable sheet of parchment. At the top, written in careful calligraphy script were these words:

     Wanted: Eytin the Chia, for murder, burglary, vandalism, and other miscellaneous crimes. If you sight him, lock yourself indoors and do anything you can to alert the other citizens.

     Beneath the writing was a sketchy drawing of a blue Chia garbed in a grubby plaid vest and kilt. Dane had to laugh.

     "He's a wanted criminal?!" she said, raising her eyebrows and giggling.

     Lao looked nervous. "I dunno. You can never tell who could be dangerous," he said shakily. "I think we should make haste and find a safe inn."

     As it turned out, finding an inn was impossible. Time after time, they knocked on inn doors, only to be told sharply, "No vacancy!" then have the door slammed in their faces.

     "They're all so jittery!" Dane exclaimed, after being turned down by the last innkeeper. "I can't bring myself to believe that it's all over that little blue Chia!" she exclaimed.

     Lao shook his head. "I told you, Dane--you can never know who could be dangerous."

     Tila sighed. "Well, I'm not worried about this Eytin, all I want is a nice bed to sleep in. I rather prefer it to the cold of the open streets, if you know what I mean."

     Dane sighed and leaned against the side of a small cottage at the side of the road. "Well, Tila, I don't know if you'll have much choice where you sleep tonight. It's getting dark, and we'll have to bed down for the night soon. And since the inns are all full, I guess we'll just have to--"

     She was cut off as the door of the cottage swung open, and a nervous-looking red Lenny peered out. "Did you say you don't have a place to stay?" he whispered nervously.

     Dane nodded. "Yes. All the inns are sold out, and we don't know any of the townsfolk."

     The Lenny looked about quickly, a nervous, tentative look in his eyes. "Well, I guess you can stay in my house for the night," he said in a worried tone.

     Tila looked very relieved. "Thank you! We'd be glad to accept your welcome," she gushed.

     Dane looked questioningly at the Lenny. "Tell me, why is everyone so scared of Eytin." She let out a snort of laughter. "I mean, when I looked at him, he didn't seem very imposing, if you know what I mean." She laughed again. "I mean, a blue Chia?! Really, what's all the fuss?"

     The Lenny was glancing around nervously. "Look, we can talk inside. I wouldn't feel good leaving you to spend the night out in the open. Please stay!"

     Dane sighed. "If you tell us what the big deal is about this Eytin," she said.

     "Fine, fine," the Lenny said hurriedly, shooing them in through the low door of his cottage. Once inside, he slammed the door shut in just the nervous manner the innkeepers had had, and locked it tightly. It was obvious that he was just as frightened as the rest of the town. His feathery forehead was wet and shiny with beads of sweat. "Look," he said in a raspy voice, "my name's Fahla. For the past month, our village has been under siege, to put it. Eytin has been breaking into homes and doing awful things--murder, theft, vandalism, and so much more." He paused, and Dane watched a tear roll down his cheek. "He-he, broke into my house not long ago and... he took the life of my wife." He bent down and put his hands in his wings and began sobbing.

     Dane looked worried. "All this from a that shrimpy Chia?" she said nervously.

     Fahla's head jerked up suddenly. "We villagers have reason to believe he's not alone in his work. All anyone's ever been able to see though is the Chia. But...well, whenever he attacks, he leaves... scars. For example, the walls of my wife's room were gouged with huge thick claw-marks after he attacked." He had to stop to collect himself, obviously still distraught with loss of his wife. "We think that maybe...maybe he's somehow in league with some sort of beast. Maybe it's a WereLupe We don't know. All we can tell is that he is definitely working with someone--or something, for all we know."

     A fearful look crossed Dane's face. "Are you really serious?" she questioned, eyebrows furrowed.

     "Dead serious," Fahla croaked. "I can show you the scratch-marks if you want."

     Dane nodded numbly. "Yes, please do."

     Fahla nodded and started up the steps of his quaint two-story abode, motioning for Dane, Lao, and Tila to follow.

     At the top of the steps there were two rooms. One was Fahla's and the other had obviously been his wife's. Fahla turned into the one on the left--his wife's old room. On entry, it was obvious that this room had been disturbed. The entrance mat was ripped into uncountable millions of pieces. The rest of the floor was littered with debris and scraps of parchment. The covers were thrown off the bed, and the bed itself was gouged into two sections. And then, there were the scratches on the wall. Three deep, ragged claw marks gouged deep into the wood of the wall.

     Dane gasped. "Fahla, I'm so sorry about all this... and I should have acted better when you offered to take us in," she said, her voice thick with remorse.

     Fahla, bent down on the mattress, raised his tear-streaked face. "No worries, friend," he choked through sobs. "I only wish he'd taken me too." Then he broke down completely.

     Tila knelt down beside the bed and patted Fahla's shoulder. "Don't worry," she whispered, "someday you'll see her again. Until then, you need to be brave, and help protect your village," she said softly, well aware that this was very odd behavior for her.

     Fahla nodded. "I know. But it's hard to move on." He stood up slowly and walked to the door. "Here," he said, his voice still shaky with tears, "you can sleep in my room, I'll be fine in this one." No one made any move to get up.

     "Go on then," Fahla said, "I'm fine. You needn't worry about me."

     Reluctantly, Dane and Lao stood up. Tila sighed heavily, then stood as well. On the way out the door, she embraced Fahla and gave him a tight squeeze. Then, she exited with the others and went to go to sleep in Fahla's room.


It was the noise that woke Dane. A muffled thud coming from the direction of the room Fahla was in. Then the sound came again. Thud. Thud. It came in an even rhythm. Footsteps. Very heavy footsteps.

     She leaned over and shook Lao awake, closing his beak tightly with her paw to prevent him squealing out.

     "Wake Tila," she whispered. "I-I think we've got company." Lao's eyes went wide with terror. Nonetheless, he turned silently to Tila and shook her gently awake.

     When all three travelers were awake, Dane stood up silently, and crept to the door. Something was coming up the steps. It was a huge, hulking furry form. She squinted to better look at it's features. It was...well, she could tell that its fur was dirty and matted, and that it had long, sharp claws. She gasped as her eyes fell on its face. It was Eytin, he was--was there such a thing?--a WereChia! It twisted it gnarled face in Dane's direction. Her gasp had been just a little too loud.

     The Chia began thumping toward the door, a little slowly; a little cautiously. Dane backed away from the doorway.

     "Lao, Tila," she hissed, "get out of here!"

     "There's no way out!" Tila whispered frantically. "We're trapped!"

     "No we're not!" Lao exclaimed. "There's a window! We can just leap out and glide down to safety."

     Dane shook her head sadly. "We can't, Lao. You can." She glanced around, as if trying to make a decision. "Look," she whispered finally, "just go Lao! Once you get down there, go get help!"

     Lao looked shocked. "But--"

     Dane cut him off. "Just go!" Lao gazed sadly at his friends, then hesitantly, he leaped out the window and flared wide his wings. Instead of heading for the ground, though, he soared higher and higher above the house.

     "If I alert the villagers," he thought out loud, "then they'll just lock their doors tighter and cower in fear." He shook his head slowly. "I cannot tell them. I must do something on my own." His eyes grew wide. "Oh no," he muttered, "No, I've changed my mind, I can't do that!" Suddenly, a piercing scream split the air. He gazed down at Fahla's comfortable home. Lights were going on in all the windows. He took a deep breath. "I need to be brave," he whispered. "I will save my friends." Then, he heaved a deep gulp of air, and shot down at the house, rushing through the window and flaring his wings back to stop himself.

     The scene inside was utter chaos. Eytin had tied Tila up, and was chasing Dane around the cramped upstairs. When she saw Lao, Dane shrieked out, "Lao! What are you doing!"

     It was then that Lao realised that he didn't have a clue. "I don't know!" he howled. "Dane, what can I do?!"

     The Chia grabbed Dane by her neck and pushed her up against the wall. "Do something Lao!" she choked. "You have to do something!"

     Lao burst into tears. His harp slid down over his shoulders as he crumpled to the ground. Wait... that was it! His harp! Quickly, he unslung the silver instrument and heaved it over his head. Then, he charged at the Chia beast and in a sudden burst of cold fury, he slammed the harp over the beast's head. It dropped Dane, looking dazed. Then it staggered around in an uneven circle, and with a crash, fell to the ground. Dane stooped over him, rubbing her throat. She reached out and felt his paw, which had already begun to turn cold and clammy. She gave a relieved sigh, and set about untying Tila.

     When that was done, she turned to Lao. "When I first met you in the woods, you were scared and timid. And I thought you would always be. But I was wrong. That was brave Lao, it takes courage to come back to the thing you fear, and face it." She embraced him tightly. "You are my hero," she whispered. Lao went very red in the face and tried to change the subject.

     "Where is Fahla?" he asked, noting that he was nowhere to be seen. Dane's head drooped.

     "He-he is in his room still. The beast got to him first," she said quietly. Lao stared at the ground. "I'll go see him," he murmured. Then, he picked up his harp--surprisingly unharmed--and walked out the door. Dane and Tila followed Lao into Fahla's room. The fallen Lenny lay on his bed, a look on his face that assured the three companions that he was happier now, resigned to death. He was reunited with his love.

     Tila bent over him and kissed his forehead gently. "Rest well, my friend," she whispered. "I hope you are with her now."

     Dane said a quiet word, then the three of them trudged down the stairs and exited the house. It was out there that Dane began to smile at Lao. "Shall we alert the villagers that they have been saved?" she said.

     Lao shook his head. "No, I don't want to now." Dane stared hard at him for a moment.

     "If you did, you would be a hero, Lao Beast-Slayer," she said, a hidden understanding in her voice.

     "I am not a hero, Dane," Lao said earnestly. "I am a clumsy Eyrie bard, and nothing more. Don't forget that. We should move on now, I think."

     Dane smiled. "Yes, let's. We shall leave them to think Fahla died killing the beast. He is the one who deserves to be a hero, after all he's been through."

     Tila grinned. "Yeah, Fahla is the hero, and Lao is the bard. And there is nothing more to say of it. And now," she said, pointing off at the limits of the small village, "we shall travel on!"

     And that is just what they did.

The End

Everyone has courage inside them. And we don't have to be hero's to use it. The most we can do is simply what we think is right. And we should never believe we do not have courage. ~Supergirl309

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