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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 9th day of Eating, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 58 > New Series > Sibling Rivalry: Part One

Sibling Rivalry: Part One

by tdyans

"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. "What's that?"

     "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 say.

     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 been doing?"

***

"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.

     "Yeah, Moeioe?"

     "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 and MaxKanine.

     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...

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