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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 20th day of Awakening, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 143 > Short Stories > Needed Beginnings: Feruli and Silviana

Needed Beginnings: Feruli and Silviana

by tdyans

Author’s Note: This story will be best understood if you have read “Needed Beginnings: Cap and Feruli” first.

The Soup Faerie blew a stubborn strand of hair out of her eyes, looked out at the long line of hungry Neopets and owners that curved around her tiny home and called, “Next!”

     “You look as if you could use some help.”

     Harried as she was, the faerie’s smile was genuine when she saw Cap standing in her doorway, and this made the green Skeith’s own smile widen.

     “Looks as if another rainstorm is coming in,” Cap said, walking into the cottage. “I thought some hot soup might help keep us warm.”

     The Soup Faerie reached down and scratched his leathery head. “It looks as if you’re not the only one with that idea. I’ve been even busier than usual.”

     The Skeith chuckled and shuffled over to her cauldron. He took a deep whiff of the steamy vegetable soup, then took a ladle in his mouth and began spooning it into the empty bowls that waited on a nearby table. He was a bit ungainly, but the Soup Faerie appreciated the help. She handed a bowl to the next person in line, and the two of them worked silently together like that for several minutes.

     The faerie was the one to break the companionable quiet. “Where is Feruli today?” she asked of the flightless Eyrie who Cap had taken under his wing a few months earlier.

     The Skeith sighed a little. “I couldn’t say for sure. He wanders off on his own a lot these days.”

     “You’re worried about him?”

     “I know he can take care of himself; you can really tell now that he used to be a fighting pet. But I still wish that he wasn’t always off alone. It’s not normal for him not to have friends—I mean, friends his own age, not some old Skeith who can’t even keep up with him. Someone to play with and laugh with, and just be young with.”

     “Hmmm,” the Soup Faerie said, staring thoughtfully into her cauldron as she stirred. “I imagine it would be difficult for him to relate to most pets his age, after what his life’s been like up ‘til now.”

     Cap was quiet for a moment as he thought about this. Then, he sighed again. “I suppose you’re right. Still…”

     “Don’t worry, Cap,” she said, a knowing smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “I have a feeling everything will turn out all right for Feruli.”

     Cap smiled back at her assurance. “Everything happens for a reason?”

     She allowed her smile to blossom. “Indeed it does.”

***

Feruli braced his paws against the lip of the garbage can and stuck his head inside, snuffling around. He had already eaten breakfast with Cap at their junkyard home, but he was in the mood for a snack, and this was one of his favorite spots to find one. It was the alley outside a little two-story bakery that, like many other stores that had to compete with the main shops in the center of the city, often had food grow stale before it could be sold.

     The blue Eyrie gave a small grunt of triumph as he pulled his head up out of the garbage with a jam pastry clutched in his beak, the gooey strawberry filling spilling out. He’d spent much of his life on the streets and the rest of it with an owner who didn’t care to pamper him, so stale or not, this find was still a delicacy in his eyes. He was about to bite down into the pastry when suddenly he was distracted by a shout from above.

     “Geronimo!” cried a female voice.

     Feruli looked up in time to see something green and furry leap from the shop window just above him. Before he even had time to register this image, that very object plopped onto the back of his neck, jolting him so that he opened his beak in surprise, dropping his pastry. He stared, bewildered, at his lost meal for a moment, and then turned his head to see what was now sitting on the ruff of fur around his neck. Out of the corner of his eye, he recognized her as a green Zafara. She grinned and waved at him.

     Again, he hadn’t even the time to ask what was going on before something else interrupted. “Get back here, thief!” a new voice shouted from above them, and Feruli looked up to see a dark-haired man leaning out the window. The man turned away, and they heard the frantic pounding of feet against stairs.

     “Well,” Feruli heard the Zafara say from astride his neck, “what are you waiting for? Run!”

     Feruli was so confused at this point from the sense that a dozen things had just happened at once and he understood none of them entirely that he found himself accepting this order without question.

     He skidded out onto the sidewalk and ran a few steps before he heard a door slam open behind him. He paused and turned half around to see the man exploding out onto the sidewalk himself, with two pets in tow: a red Krawk and yellow Tonu. Their heads swung about, surveying the crowd, until they spotted Feruli and the Zafara. Then the man shouted again, “Thieves! Stop them!”

     The Zafara kicked her heels into Feruli’s mane as if trying to prod him onward. “What are you stopping for? Get us out of here,” she said.

     But the Eyrie’s mind had just managed to catch up with the events surrounding him, and this time he ignored her urging. “What do you mean us?” he asked. “They’re after you. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

     The Zafara sighed. “Look, we don’t have time to argue. And they won’t take time to discriminate.” She pointed a paw back at the man and his two pets, who were now pushing their way toward them through the crowded street.

     Feruli realized grudgingly that she was right, and with a growl he turned again to run. But as soon as he swung his attention forward and away from his pursuers, his eyes met with the sight of a young yellow Gelert standing directly in his path only a few feet away. He stumbled a bit, instinctively trying to slow his momentum, but he hadn’t time. The Gelert ducked, and Feruli nearly collided with him, managing to leap over him instead only just in time.

     His claws clattered against the sidewalk as he landed back on all fours, and immediately he stopped and turned back. The Gelert was glaring at him while the girl beside him bent down to make sure that he was all right. Feruli stammered, “I-I’m sorry, I—”

     He was interrupted by another shout of, “Stop them!” as the man from the bakery came bursting through the crowd. There was no sign of either of his pets. Feruli turned and ran again, his long legs carrying him as quickly as they could through the busy throng.

     The Zafara leaned forward and grabbed his ears in her paws as if they were reins. “If you’re going to stop and apologize to every pet and person we bump into, there’s no way we’re getting away.”

     Feruli gritted his beak. “I’m the one doing the getting away here, so we’ll do it my way. Unless you’d like to get off and run for yourself?”

     “Okay, okay, take it easy, Birdbeak.”

     But, though he wouldn’t admit it aloud, the Zafara was right. Feruli did his best to avoid any collisions and the people wandering about the Marketplace were all too happy to clear a path for him thanks to his size, but there was no way to avoid accidents altogether in the bustling shopping center. And he couldn’t afford to stop to apologize to them all. He took to simply trying to wear an apologetic expression on his face as he ran, though he imagined it most often looked more like anxiety over the chase or annoyance at the Zafara who was egging him on.

     The Zafara herself seemed to have become more and more relaxed as the chase progressed, smiling and waving at the surprised Neopets and owners that they shot past and tossing out joking comments all the way.

     “You certainly seem to be enjoying yourself,” Feruli finally growled at her.

     “What’s not to enjoy, pal? You should relax and have some fun—no need to worry about that guy any more.”

     Sure enough, when Feruli turned his head to look behind them, there was no longer any sign—or any sound either, he realized-- of the man following them. Their pursuer seemed to have lost their trail.

     But Feruli hadn’t even stopped running when suddenly he felt the weight of the Zafara lifted from his neck. It took him a moment to process this change and turn back to see what had happened. When he did, he saw the red Krawk from the bakery, laughing as he held the green Zafara out at arm’s length. The small creature kicked and swung her arms furiously, but the Krawk’s grip didn’t waver for a second.

     As if sensing Feruli’s attention, the Krawk turned his sneer toward the Eyrie and they held each others’ eyes for a moment before the Krawk turned away, seeming to decide that he wasn’t worth the trouble. Feruli realized that he was free to go. After weaving in and out of the crowds as fast as he could for nearly 15 minutes, he was tired, and it would be so easy to walk away. In fact, he’d been thinking over and over again the whole time, If only I could just be rid of this Zafara, let her get what’s coming to her and I can go home…

     And yet now, as he watched her struggle against the smugly triumphant Krawk, he could not leave. Instead, he glared at the Krawk, feeling a hot anger growing in the pit of his stomach and rising up into his throat. With a sudden growl, he hurtled toward the Krawk, butting his great head right into the unsuspecting creature’s stomach and sending him sprawling, and the Zafara dropped to the pavement.

     Feruli’s claws scraped across the cement as he slid to a halt, and the Zafara scrambled back up onto his shoulders. “Let’s get outta here!” she cried.

     “Right!” Feruli said, a sense of adventure overcoming him as he smirked one last time at the fallen Krawk and turned in the other direction… only to see the dark-haired man coming toward them!

     Feruli turned his head again, but the Krawk had gotten to his feet. Meanwhile, a bellowing roar to his right told the Eyrie that their third pursuer, the yellow Tonu, was muscling his way toward them from across the street. Just one option remained—an alleyway to the left. He glanced one more time at the three who were swiftly closing in on them and then dove into it, hoping that it went through to the next street.

     But the moment he rounded the corner, he was greeted with the sight of a brick wall just a few yards away—a dead end. Feruli threw his paws up against the wall as if hoping to find that it was only an illusion, but it was all too real. He swung around, facing his enemies in a defensive posture that felt all too familiar.

     The man and his two pets moved slowly now. They could afford to take their time.

     Feruli looked longingly up at the sky and could swear that he felt a twinge in the torn wings that lay uselessly against his sides. If only… But then, as his eyes were still turned skyward, another escape came to him. He spoke quietly but adamantly to the Zafara. “Hold on tight.” She dug her paws deep into his mane.

     The man took another step toward them when suddenly Feruli turned to his right, went into a crouch, and launched himself upward. The great leap threw his chest against the wall of the building that formed one side of the alley. He groaned at the impact, but instantly dug his large claws into the bricks. It was a precarious hold, but it kept them from sliding back down the wall and put them out of their pursuers’ grasps, for a moment at least.

     The moment was all too short-lived, though. Feruli felt something latch onto his tail, causing him to slide a foot or two downward. He grunted in desperation, looking over his shoulder to see the Krawk hanging there. Suddenly, the Zafara loosened her grip and slid down his back. “I thought I told you to hold on!” Feruli cried through his clenched beak.

     “Just some unfinished business,” the Zafara said. She shimmied down his tail, where the Krawk could only look on helplessly as she sunk her teeth into one of his claws. He yowled and pulled the claw away, leaving him with just one still clinging to the Eyrie’s tail. The Zafara maneuvered herself back around and dealt him a heavy kick with one of her oversized feet, and the Krawk went falling back to the ground.

     The Zafara clambered back up to her seat against Feruli’s neck. “We may go now.”

     Feruli couldn’t help but smile. Moving his paws one after the other, he pulled himself slowly and painfully up the side of the building until finally he reached the broad, flat roof three stories up. He stood panting for a few moments, but it soon became apparent that they weren’t safe yet. A clanging sound informed them that someone had found a fire escape.

     Feruli ran across the roof until he came to the edge. He looked out over it, then down at the street, where the man and his Tonu were apparently following his progress. Behind him, the Krawk was pulling himself onto the roof. “That guy just doesn’t learn when to give up, huh?” the Zafara said.

     Feruli backed up a few steps and leaped over the edge of the building, landing neatly on the next roof over. Almost as soon as his paws were on solid footing again, he was running once more. He leaped from building to building several times, and the Krawk was having a difficult time of keeping up.

     But then Feruli saw opening up before them a sea of green instead of the endless pattern of gray squares that they had been traversing—they were nearing the edge of the Marketplace and the surrounding forest lay ahead. There was nowhere left to run. The Krawk would eventually catch up, and the man and Tonu would be waiting below if he tried to climb back down.

     Searching for anything to do but give in, Feruli put on an extra burst of speed. Even as he reached the edge of the final rooftop, he wasn’t sure of what he was going to do. He simply followed his instincts, bracing his hind legs and throwing himself up and out into the air.

     For that brief, weightless moment at the peak of his jump, Feruli imagined spreading his wings, catching the wind, and soaring up into the sky. But the broken wings did not unfurl. He plummeted downward, crashing through leaves and branches and hitting the forest floor with a heavy thud.

     Feruli lay still on the mossy ground, visions of flying off over the trees seeping away from him slowly-- being replaced, it seemed, by the growing pain of numerous scratches and bruises. He closed his eyes and sighed and felt himself drifting away from consciousness.

     “Hey!” A voice pulled him back and Feruli opened his eyes to glare half-heartedly at the green Zafara, who was tugging on one of his massive paws with no effect. “Come on, pal, no sleeping on the job. You don’t want to get caught after all that, do you?”

     Feruli’s brow creased, and then his ears twitched, catching the sounds of feet and voices making their way toward them. His memory snapped back into place and his eyes widened. “Come on,” the Zafara urged again, and this time, he followed.

     They crawled quickly into a small hollow that had been dug beneath an old beech tree by some wild petpet. The space was small. Feruli could feel the Zafara pressed beside him, her heart thumping nearly as quickly as his own as they both struggled to quiet their panting breaths.

     Only a few seconds later, the man came pushing through the forest undergrowth, his two pets flanking him. They paused before the tree, their eyes casting about for signs of the Eyrie and Zafara, but they missed the hiding place beneath the beech—they were focused too much on the treetops. “Ha, they’re looking in the wrong direction!” the Zafara whispered.

     Giving up on that particular area, the man and his pets moved on, deeper into the woods. Feruli started to inch his way out of the hollow, but the Zafara put a restraining paw on his shoulder. “Not yet.” They waited in silence until finally Feruli was about to crawl out, whatever she might say about it. But then he heard footsteps again and understood why she had restrained him. The three searchers were making their way back out of the forest.

     They watched as the man appeared again, and he and the Tonu continued walking back toward the Marketplace without another glance. The Krawk, however, lagged behind, moving his gaze about one more time. Feruli smothered a gasp as for one brief moment, the Krawk’s eyes seemed to look straight at them. But he had not seen them, for he turned with a scowl and stalked away after his master at last.

     “Phew, that was a close one, eh?” the Zafara said with a grin, as they squeezed out of the hiding place together.

     Feruli shook the dirt from his fur and gave her a surly look. “I guess next time you’ll find someone who can actually fly for your getaway, huh?”

     “Hey, a free ride’s a free ride. Besides, that was higher off the ground than I’ll ever get, and the way you run… sure felt like flyin’ to me.”

     Feruli’s anger at this intruder into his life suddenly abated. “Really?”

     “Yep. Now, what’re we gonna do next?”

     The Eyrie’s indignation returned as quickly as it had gone. “[i]I[/i] am going home. I suggest you do the same. Your owner’s probably worried or something.”

     “I don’t have a home—or an owner. ‘Dya think I was stealing for my health or something?” She paused for a moment in thought and laughed. “Guess I was,” she amended with a wink. “So I was thinkin’… maybe I could come and stay with you and that old Skeith, huh? There’s more than enough room in that junkyard, right?”

     “How did you—?”

     “You don’t make it long on the streets without being observant. So whadda ya say?”

     Feruli ignored the question. “What happened to your owner?”

     For once, the Zafara hesitated, and a bit of her brazenness seemed to leave her. “I’ve been on my own since I was pretty young, so I don’t remember much about her…” She scuffed one paw along the ground. “‘Cept that she said I was too much trouble.”

     “Too much trouble?”

     “Yeah, too much trouble—just like I’ve been for you. Guess I proved her right, huh? Just like always….” The timber of her voice was half defiance, half sadness. Feruli suddenly had the sense that she had spent her life living up to those words because, as hurtful as they were, it was better to believe they were true than to believe that there was no reason for the hardship of her life other than the unprovoked whim of someone who was supposed to have cared for her. It was somehow better to believe that it was her fault that she was alone in the world. As he saw this truth confirmed in her darkly shining eyes, Feruli found his heart aching for her.

     “Anyway,” she said, turning away from his searching gaze, “never mind, okay? I’ll just leave you alone.” She began to walk away.

     “No… wait,” Feruli said.

     The Zafara stopped and stared up at him, her melancholy instantly replaced again by a cheeky smile. But Feruli thought he could hear a hint of pleading cracking through the nonchalant surface of her voice now. “Does that mean I can stay with you?”

     Feruli thought for a moment, then frowned. “We don’t steal,” he said.

     “All right,” she said matter-of-factly, “then neither do I. I hereby renounce my life of crime.” She brushed her paws together.

     “Simple as that?”

     “Simple as that. If you can make it without stealing, then so can I,” she answered self-assuredly.

     “And what about that?” Feruli nodded his beak toward the lock-pick that still rested behind one of the Zafara’s floppy ears.

     “Oh, that?” she said, pulling the piece of wire out and holding it in her paw. “Well, you don’t expect me to just toss it out, do you? You never know when something like this might come in handy… for doing good and stuff, I mean.”

     Feruli gave her a skeptical look, but with a shake of his head, he let the matter drop. “What’s your name, anyway? I’m Feruli.”

     “Name’s Silviana,” she replied, holding out one paw to shake. “Nice to meet ya, Feruli.”

     “Silviana, huh? That’s an awfully big name for such a small Neopet, don’t you think?” Feruli engulfed the Zafara’s proffered paw in his own massive one as if to prove his point. “Maybe we should shorten it,” he continued playfully. “How about Sill—”

     “Don’t even think about it, Featherbag,” she warned. Feruli laughed. Even as he did so, he was surprised to realize that he couldn’t remember the last time that he had laughed. He had discovered his smile in these past few months since he had met Cap, with his gentle manner and beautiful stories. But he hadn’t laughed—not like this, freely and loudly—perhaps in all his life. And yet here and now it was coming so naturally, bubbling up out of his chest and pouring from his beak. Silviana just smiled up at him, seeming to understand somehow that this was something rare and special.

     Feruli’s laughter slowly faded. Finally, he too was simply smiling and staring down at her, though his eyes still danced with the unexplainable joy that reverberated through his heart. “All right, Silviana,” he said. “Come on then.” He turned back toward the city-- toward the junkyard-- gesturing for her to follow.

     Silviana gave a little whoop of glee and launched herself into the air to land once again on the back of the Eyrie’s great neck. “Onward faithful steed!” she commanded, making herself comfortable. “I’m ready to do some more of that flying.”

     Feruli sighed in mock-resignation. “Okay… but don’t get used to this.”

     “Sure, sure,” Silviana said, patting his head with a smirk.

     Feruli ducked his head, trying to hide his own smile as he set off toward home with the comfortable weight across his shoulders ever reminding him that he was not alone. He did not believe his own words either, even then.

The End

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