Needed Too: Part One
Dantam yawned contentedly, reveling in the feeling of
the cool, damp grass beneath him and the companionable silence that surrounded
him. The shadow-coloured Gelert looked around at his friends in the dimming
light as the sun began to descend behind the western hills, and he was suddenly
struck by how much things had changed in two years' time. When he'd first met
them, they'd been a rag-tag bunch of homeless pets--dirty, thin, and untrusting
of any human. And now... well, now they were well-groomed, well-fed, and had
all discovered the special love that existed only between a human and a Neopet--a
love Dantam had once known himself and had convinced them to give another chance.
There was the inseparable, if odd, duo of Feruli
and Silviana. It was their backyard that the pets were congregating in now.
Feruli, a blue Eyrie with tattered wings, was still flightless, but no longer
seemed pained by this disability. Silviana, the green Zafara who was curled
up atop Feruli's great neck as always, had a sense of humour that had only grown
with the discovery of their new owner. It was impossible to miss her constant,
Then there was Brenner, the red Lupe. He'd been
young, rambunctious, and ever-friendly when Dantam had first met him. Much of
that still shone through in his soft brown eyes, especially his inherent friendliness,
but he'd gained some maturity with time. He was a "big brother" now and infinitely
proud of the title and all the duties that went along with it. His sister, a
young yellow Lupe named Jorda, napped beside him as his stump tail wagged slowly
against the grass. She adored her older brother and loved spending time with
all of his older friends, but their conversations always seemed to bore her
to sleep after a while.
Finally, there were Rorro and Toragi. The antagonism
that had always simmered between the yellow Kacheek and Dantam had died away
as Rorro had allowed himself to actually trust his new owner. Now, in his new
spotted coat, he could still be a grump, but it was more for show than anything
else--he had a reputation to uphold, after all. The Kougra Toragi remained her
quiet, enigmatic self, and Rorro's most loyal friend, but her once-red coat
now shone silver beneath the fading light of the sun.
Looking down at his shaggy, soot-coloured paws,
Dantam realised that he had changed too. Two years ago, he'd come to them a
spoiled, naive, and broken-hearted young Gelert He was older and wiser now--and
scruffier and dirtier too--he thought. And his heart healed a little more with
each new pet he helped to find a home.
"You should be getting back to the junkyard soon,
I suppose, Dantam," Feruli's deep voice broke into the Gelert's thoughts. "Before
they start to worry about you." Dantam looked up at him and nodded. He got slowly
to his feet, reluctant as always to leave the cozy place that was Feruli and
Silviana's backyard. As much as things had changed, things had stayed the same.
He still considered this small group of pets, who now lived less than a block
from each other just as he'd planned, to be his dearest friends. He visited
them whenever he finished his work for the day early and happened to be in their
neighbourhood--which he often did and not by accident--and it was still always
a little difficult to leave.
"You're right, of course, Feruli," Dantam said,
stretching his tired muscles and trying not to let any regret seep into his
voice. "The last of the teams will be getting back now, so I'd better be going."
The others stood to say their goodbyes, and then Dantam turned and let himself
out of the yard, looking back one last time to see his old friends settling
back down onto the grass to continue their relaxed conversation.
With the sun now out of sight, the streets of
Neopia Central were quiet, most of the pets having headed back to the warm lights
of their NeoHomes. Dantam was left to walk back toward the junkyard in contemplative
solitude. Suddenly, he heard voices coming from the next street over and he
froze, cocking his long ears to listen. "Come on, girly," an oily voice was
saying. "Why don't you let us take a look at that fancy little collar of yours?"
Dantam crept slowly to peer around the corner
of the building that he had stopped beside. Beneath the streetlights, he made
out three menacing shapes--a red Wocky flanked by a towering yellow Grarrl and
a ragged yellow Mynci--who were advancing on a female cloud-coated Gelert who
they had backed up against the wall of the building. Dantam steeled himself
and then approached the group, trying to maintain an unconcerned tone as he
spoke up. "Hey, what's going on here?"
The three bullies turned to look at him, looking
annoyed at being interrupted. The Wocky, clearly the ringleader of the small
gang, bared his sharp teeth in a mock smile. "We were just having a friendly
conversation, weren't we?"
He looked to his two cronies in turn. The Mynci
rubbed his paws together gleefully and gave a maniacal giggle. "Hehehe, yeah,
that's it, just talkin', hehehe!" The monstrous Grarrl just nodded dumbly but
enthusiastically and then returned his gaze to their prey. Dantam noted that
the slender cloud Gelert offered no answer herself besides a slight tremble.
"Anyhow," the Wocky continued, his voice falling
into a snarl, "it's none of your business, Gelert!"
"It is now," Dantam challenged, growling low
in his throat as he planted himself between the three bullies and their frightened
The Wocky had clearly reached the end of his
patience with their unexpected guest. "Now come on, poochie, we're not playing
around. Why don't you run on home and let us finish our conversation with this
nice lady, hmmm?"
"If you want to 'finish your conversation' you'll
have to get through me first." Dantam bared his teeth and laid his long ears
back against his head, trying to look as menacing as possible. "So, I suggest
that you run on home instead."
The Wocky gave a dramatic sigh. "All right, I
tried to reason with you, but I suppose there's only one way to 'reason' with
some pets." A sinister grin spread slowly across his red face and Dantam thought
nervously that the Wocky seemed quite happy that things had turned out this
way. The Wocky nodded to the two pets on either side of him and then turned
his grin back toward Dantam. "You'll be sorry."
Dantam felt the fur along the nape of his neck
rise involuntarily as the Grarrl and Mynci advanced toward him, but he held
his ground. Even so, his mind was racing. The huge, muscular Grarrl was simply
daunting, and the chattering, glassy-eyed Mynci was obviously not all sane.
Two years on the streets had undoubtedly toughened Dantam, but he was still
no fighter. He could defend himself when he needed to, but even then he was
used to having backup, especially when facing three such intimidating opponents,
and now there was no friendly face in sight. Dantam felt himself backing up
a step, and a whimper unexpectedly escaped his throat as he wondered just how
he was going to get out of this fix...
To be continued...