Moeioe and Rooruon sat in the stands, watching the arrows
fly and exchanging worried looks as they both noticed Achilles spending just
as much time glaring at Max as at his target. Moeioe sighed. "We've got to think
of something, Rooruon--and soon!"
The mutant Cybunny leaned his head on a paw
and put on his best thinking expression, but the truth was he wasn't much for
coming up with ideas, as hard as he was trying. Luckily, Moeioe's face brightened
a few minutes later. "I've got it!" he exclaimed. "I know the perfect birthday
gift to give to Max and Achi!"
"Birthday gift?" Rooruon exclaimed. "Moeioe,
I thought we were supposed to be finding some way to get them to stop fighting!"
"We are!" Moeioe replied, pulling Rooruon up
out of his seat. "Come on, we've gotta get a message to Tdyans. We need her
to send us something." Rooruon followed along obediently and the two were able
to sneak away and back to the motel while Achilles and Max remained engrossed
in their competition.
As Moeioe and Rooruon returned to the trio of stadiums that had been set up
for the next day's tournament, their mission completed, they found that their
brothers had moved on to the third stadium and the final part of their personal
competition: jousting. Taggert was there also, having obviously been wrangled
into bringing more necessary supplies and explaining to them just how the jousting
worked. A pair of mechanical "horses" had rigged up in the center of the stadium.
Really, they were a pair of wooden barrels with saddles on them, and a rope
that could be moved back and forth with a crank was strung through each barrel.
As he tried to chatter through the tension that emanated between Achilles and
Max, the young Ixi noted that this had not settled very well with his mother.
But she'd had no choice but to accept the arrangement, since none of the Unis,
or even the Kaus, in Meridell seemed to like the idea of being anybody's "noble
"Where did you two get off to?" Achilles asked
as he saw Moeioe and Rooruon approaching. Both opened their mouths to give some
excuse, but Achilles cut them off with a wave of his paw. "Oh, never mind. Rooruon,
I need you to help me by turning this crank here." He pointed the Cybunny toward
one of the large cranks as he fitted a helmet down over his long, curling ears
and climbed up onto his barrel.
"Moeioe, come over and help me out," MaxKanine
called as Rooruon headed over to assist Achilles. The faerie Moehog trotted
over to the other end of the stadium to join Max and a similar barrel and crank.
"We're tied now," the Lupe explained, with a determined expression set on his
face. "That means whoever wins this wins the whole thing--"
"And gets to call himself the oldest pet!" Achilles
yelled from the other end of the arena.
"Forever!" Max growled back.
Once both Lupe and Gelert had mounted their
wooden steeds and had their heavy lances--with padded ends to avoid any too-serious
injuries--handed up to them, they both sat forward, staring ahead at each other
with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth. Moeioe and Rooruon reluctantly backed
away to man their respective cranks, waiting for the word from Taggert, who
had moved around to stand facing the middle of the stadium, where the two barrels
and their riders would meet. The Ixi raised one hoof in the air, held it for
a few suspenseful moments, and then dropped it through the air with a swooshing
sound and a shouted, "Go!"
Moeioe and Rooruon cranked with all their might,
sending the two barrels rocketing toward each other, while the two pets astride
them lifted their lances and charged ahead with malicious grins. As the two
brothers neared, their lances reaching out ahead of them and aimed right at
each other, Moeioe and Rooruon let got of their cranks, which continued spinning
away on their own, and covered their eyes, unable to watch the impact.
There was a terrible crash, the sound of wood
clashing against metal, a pair of thuds, and then silence. Slowly, Moeioe and
Rooruon uncovered their eyes and turned to Taggert, wondering why they weren't
hearing any triumphant yells from either side. Taggert stood in the center of
the arena, staring down at the two unconscious pets that lay on the ground before
him. Achilles and Max's lances had hit each of them at exactly the same moment,
knocking them both out and off of their barrels.
The Ixi exchanged glances with Moeioe and Rooruon
and shrugged. "I guess it's still a tie."
Achilles and Max both began to regain consciousness in time to hear Taggert
trying to reason with his mother in the background. "Mum, I really don't think
that using the leeches is going to be necessary in this case." Madame Mavinna
glared at him and he stuttered, "I mean, er, I think, milady, that thine leeches
be a bit...drastic."
"Question me not, Taggert!"
"Ye know not of what ye speak, young sir. A
good leeching to drain the bad humour be just what these lads need," Madame
Mavinnia said, looking and sounding far too delighted by her planned cure.
Achilles and Max came swiftly to full consciousness
then, opening their eyes wide and deciding not to mention any splitting headaches
in hopes of avoiding a "good leeching." Thus, they both realised at the same
time, as they looked about at their new surroundings, that they'd been stuffed
side by side into the same motel room bed. They each scowled at each other,
refusing to say a word, crossed their arms, turned away and scooted to the far
edge of either side of the large bed.
"You're awake," Rooruon said from where he had
his front paws propped up on the foot of the bed to look in on his older brothers.
He'd made sure to say it loud enough so that Madame Mavinnia sighed and left
in a disappointed huff, but the smile that he turned back toward them after
seeing this was not returned. Achilles and Max simply continued to stare crossly
at opposite walls, and the Cybunny was soon frowning right along with them.
Then he heard the bedroom door swing open again, and as he turned to see Moeioe
balancing a nicely-wrapped package on his tusks, his usual happy demeanour returned
"Guys," Moeioe announced as he dropped the package
onto the very middle of the bed, "Roory and I have a birthday present for you."
Achilles and Max both turned a little bit to
peer curiously at the package, making certain, however, that they were still
not meeting each others' eyes. "But," Rooruon added, "it's for both of you--and
you have to open it together or not at all." Now the two older pets looked up
at each other with barely-contained snarls. Their glares communicated that they
still wanted nothing to do with each other, but neither of them could allow
a perfectly good present to simply sit there unopened and gnawing at their curiosities.
Finally, their staring seemed to bring about some mutual agreement and they
both grudgingly reached a paw toward the gift, ripping away the wrapping together.
What was revealed was a large, thick book. As
they leaned just slightly closer to it, and to each other, Achilles and Max
both realised that the book was actually a photo album, and they had to scoot
just a little bit closer in order to hold it up between them and open it together.
The frowns that they'd both been clinging to steadily began to fade as they
stared together at the three pictures on the first page. The first photo showed
a young blue Gelert. He was surrounded by all sorts of toys and books, but he
simply laid on the floor with his head resting on his paws and an expression
of loneliness on his face. The second photo was of a young green Lupe, huddling
shyly and uncertainly in a corner, all alone. Finally, the third picture showed
the two young pets, their expressions transformed to ones of carefree joy as
they tumbled playfully together on the floor of their NeoHome.
By now, both Achilles and Max's expressions
had softened completely and they were sitting shoulder to shoulder as they stared
down at the visual story that the three pictures told. Finally, they looked
up into each other's eyes.
"Aw, Maxi," Achilles sighed. "I don't have any
right to be jealous of you just because you were born a few days before me,
when I was lucky enough to be born into a good home. I'm sorry you had such
a bad start in life."
"That's okay, Achi," Max said with a smile.
"I shouldn't be jealous either, because I'm not sorry--if I hadn't had that
start, I would have never ended up where I am now. And I'd have never ended
up with a brother--and a friend--like you." Achilles smiled back and the two
brothers embraced, as Moeioe and Rooruon at the foot of the bed let out simultaneous
sighs of relief.
"Now," Achilles said, pulling back a little,
"what are we going to do about that tournament?"
The next day, Achilles and Max strolled across the grassy meadows of Meridell
toward the Trio Tournament arena, where other excited tourists were already
gathering together in anticipation of either participating in or watching the
day's events. They arrived in front of a small booth where Taggert sat, looking
harried already as he checked off those who had already signed up and were now
arriving and took down the names for late sign-ups.
The young Ixi looked up with interest at the
cloud Gelert and green Lupe. "Well, what did you guys decide? Who's the oldest?
Who gets to compete?" By now, even he was interested in the results of the previous
day's events, and it looked as if the two guests were no longer feuding, so
they must have come to a decision.
Achilles and Max both smiled triumphantly, put
their paws about each others' shoulders, and said in unison, "We're both the
"You're...both the oldest?" Taggert asked, taking
a few moments to sort out just what that meant. "So, uh, you're... both going
They nodded together. "Yep," Achilles explained,
"I'm going to do the sword fighting--"
"And I'll be taking care of the archery," Max
"And then we'll both do the jousting together,"
Taggert's expression went from curious to worried.
"Oh, I don't know if Mum's going to like that..." He trailed off, looking about
as if he expected her to pop up just over his shoulder, as she did in fact have
a habit of doing. But eventually his eyes fell back on the two brothers and
the harmonious transformation that had come over them since the day before,
and he sighed. "Oh, I suppose she's just going to have to deal with it, isn't
she?" he said, offering his most rebellious smile and a wink as he handed over
the sign-up sheet.
"Hey, second place isn't bad at all," Achilles said as the four brothers walked
back to Madame Mavinnia's Magical Meridell Motel in the aftermath of the excitement
of the tournament. He held up the silver trophy that he and Max had come away
with, inspecting it proudly and wiping away an imaginary smudge with one paw.
"After all, I'm the second oldest, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Max chuckled a little at his brother and snatched
the trophy out of the Gelert's paws. "Achilles, what are you talking about?
You know that I'm the second oldest pet in the family."
"No, no Max, I'm the second oldest--eight days
younger than you, remember?" Achilles retorted, grabbing one of the trophy's
handles and tugging it toward himself.
Max kept a firm hold of the other handle and
tugged right back. "Oh no, Achilles, I insist--"
"Gu-uys!" Moeioe and Rooruon groaned in unison.
At this interruption, the Lupe and Gelert turned to look at their younger brothers
and then to look back at each other. Suddenly, smiles spread across both of
their muzzles, and they broke down into uncontrollable laughter. Achilles81
and MaxKanine slung their paws affectionately around each others' shoulders
as they held the silver trophy between them, and the sounds of their shared
laughter echoed around the hills of Meridell.
Author's Note: MaxKanine and Achilles81 turned two years old on September 18th
and 26th respectively, and I'm still not sure which of them to call my "oldest"
pet, but I love them both either way.