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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 23rd day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 72 > Short Stories > Prelude to Disaster

Prelude to Disaster

by clumsyminkytink

Darien, a young red Kougra, glared at his younger brother. "Give me my book back," he growled, baring his fangs.

     "You read too much," snickered Karl, holding the book just out of Darien's reach. "That's what mommy says." The pudgy blue Skeith jumped backwards out of Darien's reach as the Kougra lunged at him.

     "Mommy," Darien gritted his teeth at his sibling, "is a moron. Give me the book, scar face."

     "Don't call me that," Karl whined. He puffed out his chest and glared down his nose at Darien, attempting to look intimidating.

     "I'll call you whatever I want, scar face. Want me to give you a real scar face? Scar face, scar face, scar face," he laughed as his brother dropped the book and leapt at him with a growl. With a quick sweep of his paws, Darien dumped his brother on the ground and sat on his stomach. He then proceeded to claw up Karl's face. Unfortunately, the Skeith's yelps of pain brought their owner, Jeni, rushing into the room.

     "Darien! What are you doing?" She rushed over to separate the two. She grabbed Darien around the middle and tried to yank him off. Suddenly, she let go with a small scream as one of Darien's attacks missed Karl and sliced across Jeni's face. There was silence for a few seconds.

     "All right, Darien. That's the last straw." Jeni pulled out a tissue and applied it to Karl's scratches. She touched her cheek and winced as pain flared up. "You're going out. You're too dangerous to live here anymore."

     "FINE!" Darien yelled. "I don't want to live with that-that-THING anymore ANYWAY!" Jeni backed him into a corner.

     "Maybe your next owner will have a pet you can get along with better," she said, her eyes hard, and then she picked him up and carried him out the door.

     Karl's eyes glinted in fiendish delight, and he picked up the book the two had been fighting over. Snickering, he promptly tore it in half.

     He was cold. Of course he was cold; the pound was supposed to be miserable. And yet, Darien felt like he was finally content for the first time in weeks. He no longer had to deal with his spiteful brother or his biased owner. He sighed happily, curled up into a ball, and promptly fell asleep.

     He was awakened by a light touch to his shoulder. His eyes flew open and he stared, wide-eyed, at the girl who was smiling down at him through the bars on his cage.

     "Hello, Darien," she said.

     "Uh... hi," Darien stammered. The girl smiled and turned to the pink Uni who was in charge of adoptions.

     "I'd like to adopt him, please," she said. Darien's stomach dropped. He suddenly felt that he didn't want to be adopted, that he wouldn't be able to stand living with this girl. His heart began to pound and his hackles rose. Suddenly, his paws took on a life of their own, and as the Uni opened the cage door, Darien streaked out of it, knocking the girl to one side and bursting out of the building before anyone could react.

     Karl was profoundly enjoying his new only-child status. He was quickly becoming obnoxious, and when he tipped a table over and broke Jeni's Zen lamp, she finally got fed up and shoved Karl outside to play in the yard. Immediately he hopped the fence and went to explore Neopia Central.

     It was dark before Darien stopped running. His muscles, unused to such a workout, finally collapsed, and Darien fell in a broken heap in the first shelter he could find, some old ruins far outside the borders of Neopia Central. There he slept until dawn broke on the eastern horizon. As the light touched his face, he opened his eyes and felt at peace.

     Invisible in the trees above, the Time Faerie, sister of the Space Faerie, smiled.

     Darien slowly got to his feet, feeling as though his legs were on fire. He began to forage around for food. Intent on his search, he didn't notice Karl sneak out of the bushes behind him.

     Karl slowly snuck up on his former brother. Against all odds, at the exact moment that Karl lunged, Darien tripped over a root and vanished. Karl gasped and felt himself falling, falling...

     The two pets landed in a heap on the ground with a loud thud. Darien snarled, startled, and shoved his brother off of him. "Karl! What in the name of the faeries are you doing here? Why do you have to follow me everywhere? I-" Karl gestured wildly for Darien to be quiet. "What on earth is the matter with you?"

     "L-look," Karl stammered, pointing behind the angry Kougra. Darien looked over his shoulder and nearly fell over in surprise.

     A huge purple and yellow thing lay sprawled across an entire hill, its legs stretched out away from it as it snored softly.

     "Good grief," Darien whispered. Karl nodded in emphatic agreement. The two edged quietly away.

     Once they were a safe distance from the monster, Darien grabbed Karl by the ear and hissed, "Listen, I don't know how we got here, or even where we are, but that doesn't mean that I'll tolerate your presence. So get away from me. I've had to deal with you my whole life-" Darien gave Karl's ear a cruel twist, causing his brother to cry out in pain. "And I don't have to put up with you anymore. Jeni got rid of me, remember? And that moment was the happiest one in my life. So don't spoil it." Darien yanked Karl's ear again until he whimpered in pain, then dropped the Skeith on the ground with a snort of disgust and walked away.

     "You spoke to the Time Faerie last night?" asked a dainty green Shoyru.

     "I did. She has sent them," said the large red Shoyru to his wife and advisor.

     "They are here already?"

     "Yes."

     "Can nothing be done? You have responsibilities to your people as well-"

     "She has informed me that I have no choice. Although there are other fools who would contest the will of a faerie, I do not rate myself among them. Would you?"

     "I suppose not." The two peered into the sphere resting on the table before them.

     "You see? It's as I said. The two warring brothers. My signs were right yet again."

     "This will mean war, Telteroft." The green dragonlike creature regarded her king as he watched the crystal ball. Kougra and Skeith were equally visible in the magical viewport. Telteroft sighed heavily.

     "I know, Preet. But the future cannot be denied. I can no more stop it than I can stop the grass from growing. Sometimes knowing the future can be a burden."

     "It has saved Ferindell many times."

     "I know, Preet," Telteroft sighed again. "I know."

     Darien had not walked six steps when a thunder of hooves sounded throughout the air and seven Neopians riding Unis appeared over the hill, laughing and joking with each other as they raced their beasts. The leader, a Lupe, gave a cry as he spotted Karl, and Darien instinctively hid behind a bush.

     "Hey, what're you doing here, you silly boy? They're bandits about! Come on, you'd better come back to the castle with us until your parents come looking for you," said the Lupe as Karl stammered protests. He was unceremoniously hauled up onto the Uni and taken away before Darien could think of something to do.

     Not that he cared what happened to the little brat.

     But if his brother was going to a castle, Darien thought he should go in the opposite direction-because Karl was sure to blab about Darien to someone, and for some inexplicable reason Darien did not want anyone to know about his presence.

     However, the mention of bandits had intrigued him.

     "Your Majesty!" Kerfet, Telteroft's most loyal Lupe guard, strode into the throne room, dragging a young Skeith behind him. Telteroft put his crystal ball away and regarded his servant.

     "You have found that boy, I presume. But where is the Kougra? The signs allowed for a Kougra. Is he not here? I saw him myself." Telteroft frowned in consternation at Kerfet. The Lupe gulped.

     "No, sir, we saw no one else."

     Telteroft sighed. "Then he is with the shadows already. And I had hoped to delay the inevitable for a bit longer..."

     "The inevitable, sire?"

     "Never mind. You may leave us now. I wish to speak to young Karl alone." Kerfet, ever obedient, bowed and left the chamber.

     Telteroft stared at the bewildered Skeith "My name is Telteroft. Do not ask any questions, please. I am ruler of this kingdom, and you are a newcomer. Yet I have seen your coming and have decided what must be done. The Time Faerie has her reasons for sending you and your brother here, as she has sent so many in the past. Yet I fear your rivalry will bring my kingdom to an end. I cannot disobey her will, however. You will be named my heir-"

     "What?!" Karl spluttered. "I can't rule a kingdom! I don't even know where I am! Or who you are! And how'd you know my name, anyway? I-"

     "Silence!" Telteroft roared, reducing Karl to a quivering babe on the floor. "This is my will. Preet, record it."

     "Yes, Your Majesty."

     "Karl must be officially inducted as per the Faerie's orders, and my own, as my heir."

     "Yes, Your Majesty."

     "And neither of you is to mention the Kougra at all costs. Do I make myself clear? Word of Darien's existence is not to leave this room."

     "Yes, Your Majesty."

     Darien waited for several hours, casting Magic Torch to keep the darkness at bay while he planned.

     He did not want to ally himself with the ruler of the kingdom if that was what Karl was going to do. While he figured out a way to get home-he fully intended to leave Karl here-he needed someone to feed him and give him shelter. It seemed logical to Darien that if he could convince the bandits not to kill him, they would be valuable friends. People who roamed about without the permission of the king often knew the lay of the land better than the king himself-or they should, thought Darien, thinking back to the many fantasy books he'd read. And he was certain that he could fool them.

     So Darien waited until a knife held by a raggedy paw appeared out of nowhere and nicked at his throat while the other paw grabbed one of Darien's ears. The owner of the two paws hissed sibilantly in his ear, "Out a bit late, aren't we?"

     "Not by much. You might as well get that knife away from me, I can tell that it hasn't been sharpened in weeks." Darien shoved the knife away and yanked his ear from his captor's grasp while the bandit stared at him, bewildered. Darien lifted his Magic Torch to get a better look at his meal ticket.

     "Magic," the Aisha breathed, awed.

     "Yes, it is." Darien looked around. "How many more of you are there? I have a proposition to make. Take me to the rest of them and I won't burn you alive." The Aisha gulped and gestured to the left into the darkness.

     "This way."

     "Thank you."

     Over a year passed. Telteroft passed away and Karl succeeded him as king. No sign was ever found of Darien, but a certain bandit group had been growing and eating up the land in the northern part of the kingdom. The new king, who had changed his name to Skarl, suspected that his older brother was behind it and did not take action, even as a messenger came to tell the king that the new land of Darigan was declaring its independence. Skarl had grown in wisdom since his crowning, and he knew that if he tried to fight Darien now, only ill could come of it. So he did nothing to stop it as Darigan grew more and more powerful and prosperous and hid itself away from the remainder of Ferindell, which people were beginning to call Meridell.

     Two years it has been since I died. I hover as a mere spirit, without my beloved wife, without my loyal guards, with no one but the Time Faerie. I have asked her many times why she set these events in motion, but she refuses to answer.

     And in the future? What will happen now? I do not know. I am certain that war will be caused because of the dividing of my lands. That is why I named Skarl my heir. If he can learn to lead the armies, he can learn to love his brother. Darigan, once the Kougra Darien, still harbours his hatred for my young heir. Darigan and Skarl will send their countries to war because of this, but I have the Time Faerie's word that none of my people will be killed. It is a small consolation.

     I harbour the last vestiges of hope that perhaps Darigan will not create the powerful orb that will strip his land of its magic even as it keeps it green. It is in vain. The future cannot be thwarted.

     And yet, not even I can see what the outcome will be. Can you?

~ From the Scrolls of Telteroft, King of the former kingdom of Ferindell

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