Sibling Rivalry: Part One
"Okay guys, what do we want to do today?" Achilles81
asked as MaxKanine spread their map of Meridell out on the rickety wooden table
inside their motel room. Achilles, a cloud Gelert, and Max, a green Lupe, were
both turning two years old within about a week of each other, and as a special
gift, their owner Tdyans had sent all four of her pets on a vacation to Meridell.
They were staying at a little place on the outskirts of the main "business"
center of Meridell that was popular with tourists: Madame Mavinnia's Magical
Meridell Motel. Madame Mavinnia was a graying red Ixi who always affected an
overdone Olde Meridell accent and insisted that she was a sorceress, while no
one had actually ever even seen her succeed at Guess the Card.
Moeioe, a faerie Moehog, and Rooruon, a mutant
Cybunny, leaned over the map along with their older brothers, trying to determine
a course of action for the day. They'd tried Cheese Roller out the day before
and come away with nothing more than extra bruises, sticky cheese on their paws,
and some funny stories to take home to Tdyans. The day before that they'd tried
out Shapeshifter, which frustrated even Achilles. It hadn't taken them long
to get banned from Meri Acres a few days earlier when MaxKanine complained about
the quality--not to mention the cleanliness--of the berries while Moeioe tried
to count the potatoes by eating them. With their plan for that day cut short,
they'd headed over to Ye Olde Petpets, but they'd found that as soon as a new
Petpet arrived, they didn't even have time to "ooh" and "aah" over it before
somebody snatched it up and carried it off. All of them had declined to give
Kiss the Mortog a try, although Rooruon, knowing that appearances could be deceiving,
had briefly considered it. All four pets sat back and sighed. Meridell was beginning
to seem a bit boring. Suddenly, however, there was a knock at the door. "Come
in," Achilles called out.
The door swung open and a young green Ixi walked
in, carrying a clipboard and tugging at the frilly collar of the old-fashioned
outfit that he was wearing. "Morning, guys," he greeted them. It was Taggert,
Madame Mavinnia's somewhat timid but friendly son, who, unless his mother was
in the room, didn't seem to care about sounding "authentic" as much as she did.
"I'm here about the Trio Tournament," he said, holding out the clipboard, which
had a sign-up sheet filled with names on it.
"The Trio Tournament?" MaxKanine questioned.
"Oh, it's this tournament that Mum and two of
the other local hotel owners decided to set up for their guests. You compete
in three events--sword fighting, archery, and jousting." The four brothers looked
at each other excitedly and then turned their attention back to Taggert. "But
anyway, Mum made this rule that only the oldest pet in each family can compete--tradition
and all that, you know. You wouldn't believe the time Mr. Lenard from the Draik
and Ixi Inn had convincing her to even let female pets compete. But since you're
all guys that shouldn't be a problem anyway. So, are you interested?" he asked,
holding the sign-up sheet out.
"Sure!" Max and Achilles exclaimed at the same
time, both grabbing for the clipboard. They looked at each other, surprised,
still gripping a corner each, while Taggert looked back and forth at the two
of them in confusion.
Max chuckled a little at his brother and tugged
the clipboard toward himself. "Achilles, what are you doing? I'm eight days
older than you--you know that."
"Yes, Max," Achilles said, punctuating his brothers'
name by tugging back on the clipboard, "but I was Tdyans' first pet.
She had me for months before she adopted you from the pound, and that makes
me the oldest pet in the family."
Max pulled back on the clipboard, but Achilles
refused to yield, so the sign-up sheet hovered tensely between them. The two
brothers glared at each other for a few moments--a strange sight for Moeioe
and Rooruon, who exchanged worried glances, because Achilles and Max rarely
fought. The Gelert and Lupe finally both turned to Taggert to see what he would
The young Ixi just tugged on his collar again
and shrugged. He hadn't ever run into this conundrum before, and although she
might come up with an answer, he was hesitant to go to his mother about it out
of fear of just what her methods of finding that answer might be. "Well, uh...
Hey, why don't you guys have your own mini-tournament to decide who gets to
be the 'oldest' and compete? You have until tomorrow afternoon to figure it
out." Looking both proud of his idea and still a bit uneasy about the two glaring
pets before him, Taggert gently pried the clipboard out of the Gelert and Lupe's
paws and quickly edged his way out of the room, shutting the door behind him
and heading down the hall to the next guests, who he hoped would be less complicated.
"Hmmm, sounds like a good idea to me," Achilles
nearly growled as he and Max continued to stare at each other with narrowed
eyes, "unless, of course, you're scared, Maxi--"
"Bring it on, Achi!" MaxKanine snarled back.
And with that, the two brothers spun on their heels and stomped out the door
side by side, leaving Moeioe and Rooruon to trot worriedly after them.
They cornered Taggert outside again, and he
pointed out the three small arenas that had been set up about a mile away for
each of the different events and then managed to dig up a pair of harmless wooden
swords from his mother's junk room full of supposed genuine Meridell artifacts.
Then he scampered off when his mother suddenly walked into the junk room and
shrieked, "Taggert, some of me artifacts be missing, I can tell! What have ye
"Hey, Rooruon?" Moeioe asked as the two of them trudged along at a distance
behind Achilles and Max, who were marching resolutely toward the small sword
fighting arena, refusing to say a word to each other. Rooruon was dragging Achilles'
sword behind him since he and Moeioe had been appointed squires. He paused to
respond, tossing a slightly envious glance at the Moehog, who was using his
handy tusks as a sword rack.
"Have you gotten Maxi and Achi anything for
their birthdays yet?"
"Nope," the mutant Cybunny said, shaking his
head. "I just don't know what to get them. I thought maybe we'd find some cool
souvenirs here, but even if I could get a hold of a Petpet I could never afford
it, and somehow I don't think they'd appreciate a bag of peas all that much..."
Moeioe sighed. "Yeah, me neither."
Achilles held out his paw and Rooruon managed to heft the wooden sword up
into it after a brief struggle. Then the timid mutant Cybunny hopped off and
out of the way, joining Moeioe, who had already handed Max his own sword. The
two sat back in the front row of the bleachers, both feeling a bit edgy as they
observed the tension that seemed to span across the small stadium between Achilles
The Gelert and Lupe stared hard-eyed at each
other, nodded slowly, and then went charging at each other with their swords
raised. In the center of the ring, the two swords clashed against each other
with a thwap, sending a few splinters flying. Achilles and Max stood
leaning against each other and growling quietly through gritted teeth for a
few moments before they both took a step back and started swinging. For a while
the swords continued to fly, but each move that one brother made always seemed
to have been anticipated by the other. Eventually, though, it began to become
clear who had the upper-paw. Achilles continued to swing away relentlessly,
while the best that Max could do was fall back and try to keep up with defending
himself from Achilles' blows. Still, although he was panting while the Gelert
didn't even seem to have broken a sweat, Max was holding his own, managing to
stave off every one of Achilles' thrusts.
Suddenly, however, Achilles started to stab
at Max's right side, but as Max turned to defend himself, the Gelert spun around
in a quick circle, swinging for his left side instead. Max realised what was
happening just in time to yank his sword back over to his left and block Achilles'
swing, but he had no time to adjust his stance to put any power behind the defence.
He struggled to hold his ground, but he was off-balance already and Achilles'
superior strength finally overcame him, knocking the Lupe back into the mud
and sending his sword flying back into the bleachers, where Rooruon and Moeioe
quickly ducked to avoid it. With a triumphant smirk, Achilles laid the tip of
his sword lightly against Max's chest to make his victory complete.
As the Gelert turned to stroll away proudly,
Max frowned, lifting his head up out of the mud only to let if fall back once
more with a sigh. He wasn't one to dwell on things most of the time, but this
whole business had brought up one thing that had always nagged at him just a
little. While he was more than a week older than Achilles, he didn't seem like
the oldest pet; Achilles was the strongest, and the fastest, and the best-read.
This was because while much of Max's first few months of Neopian life had been
spent in neglect in the Pound, Achilles had spent his as Tdyans' only pet and
had received the full brunt of her pampering. There was no way that the Lupe
would ever catch up. It was something that didn't really matter to his life
for the most part, but at times like this he couldn't help but think about it.
With another sigh, he allowed Moeioe and Rooruon to pull him up out of the mud
and lead him out of the stadium after Achilles.
Madame Mavinnia did not allow baths in her motel. So, Max had to do some wheedling
to get Taggert to let him in on how he managed to get cleaned up every now and
then. A little while later, the green Lupe emerged from Illusen's Glade mud-free
and tried to ignore Achilles' snickering and muttered comment that he smelled
like Rain Water Shampoo as they headed on to the second small stadium.
As they entered the stadium, they saw that lined
up on one end of the arena were ten red and white targets, while across from
them, lined up at the other end, were ten of the wooden crossbow-catapult contraptions
that they'd seen used near the castle a few days earlier. And of course, beside
each crossbow there was a Turtum, most of them snoozing under the midday sun
as they patiently waited for when they would be needed for the next day's festivities.
Achilles walked ahead to the Turtum line and paced back and forth, examining
each one carefully over and over again, determined to find a way to pick out
the best and brightest of the little Petpets. Of course, it was difficult to
tell just who was best or bright when they were sleeping. While he continued
his perusal back and forth, MaxKanine strolled up, stood before the line, gazed
back and forth once and then walked straight up to one of the Turtums. He tapped
his chosen assistant on the head, and the little creature immediately snapped
awake and stood to attention, ready for his orders.
Achilles' brow creased as he watched this display
and then turned back to the remaining Turtums. Finally, he decided on his favourite
and he confidently approached it, tapping it on the head just as he'd seen his
brother do a few moments earlier. Nothing happened. He frowned and tapped it
again, a little harder this time. Still nothing. Achilles gritted his teeth,
restraining himself from making his next tap a little more than a tap. Instead,
finally, he barked, "Wake up!" And, finally, the Turtum jolted awake, looking
around blearily until it found the source of the noise and then looking a bit
irritated at him for waking it a day early. The Gelert glared back at it.
Max cleared his throat, distracting Achilles
from his staring match with the sleepy Petpet. "Why don't you take the first
shot Achi?" he suggested with a cool smile. "Winner's privilege."
Achilles straightened up, facing the target
ahead of him, and his Turtum slowly did the same, yawning as it awaited his
orders. "Okay then..." Achilles said, looking back and forth between the target
and his Turtum-manned crossbow and stumbling over his directions as he tried
to get the arrow positioned just right. "Uh, up, up--up, just a little more--no,
down, down! All right, u--no d--I mean, up, er wait, just down a little and
then up..." After about five minutes of this, the Turtum at the crank was beginning
to look very tired and more than a little annoyed, and Achilles finally decided
to stop. "Here goes nothing," he muttered, sounding anything but certain as
he pulled the lever to release the arrow.
The missile flew through the air toward the
other end of the stadium and Achilles held his breath, noticing worriedly that
it seemed to be flying a bit high. Finally, a few feet from the target, the
arrow began to descend a little and in the last few feet it managed to pierce
the very outside, upper edge of the target--before its momentum caused it to
snap away from its weak hold on the target and fall over the back and onto the
ground. Achilles cringed and covered his eyes with a paw as his Turtum scampered
off to collect the errant arrow.
MaxKanine, cool and collected as always, stepped
up to his catapult, stuck one claw into the air to test the wind, stared ahead
at the target for a few moments, and then calmly rattled out his orders to his
extremely compliant Turtum. "Up. Stop. Down. Stop. All right, good." And with
that, he pulled the release lever and everyone watched as the arrow sped toward
the target as if drawn by some magnetic force and pierced it right through the
middle of the red bullseye.
Achilles groaned, putting a paw over his eyes
and then removing it in order to glare at his Turtum, who was returning with
his dusty and battered arrow and looking suddenly quite pleased to be awake.
As he continued to spend all of his effort missing shot after shot and Max continued
to hit bullseye after bullseye with ease, the Gelert felt his normally dormant
jealousies rising to the surface. He couldn't help but let it bother him when
he was so frustrated that while he played the part of the oldest pet in every
way, he would never technically be the oldest. He was the best trained and the
best read, and he proudly took on all the responsibilities that one would expect
of the oldest brother, but he could do nothing to make his age correspond to
his attitude. Of course, being concerned about something this silly didn't even
occur to him most of the time. Max couldn't help it that he'd been born eight
days earlier, and it really shouldn't mean anything anyway, but at times like
this Achilles couldn't help but hold it against him.
To be continued...