Evaristus the Envious
Evaristus the Royal Usul sat gloomily in the candlelit drawing room of his Meridell Neohome. It was a warm summer evening and the moon produced a magnificent dreamlike shine on the shadowy gardens and fields outside. However, Evaristus saw none of this, for he had pulled aside the curtains angrily hours before. He didn't want to see outside. He didn't care.
He idly reached out to grab the latest Neopian Times off the low table before him, leafed to a random page, and began to read an article on Doglefox care. The words were impossibly dizzying and difficult to concentrate on; Evaristus's mind was filled with bleakest bitterness. It was his birthday today.
He tossed the newspaper away before long and sighed. His tired gaze caught the glimmering reflection of candlelight on the countless trophies tucked in the trophy cabinet to his right. Each of the awards had a certain hateful name engraved in gold: Tarquinn de Quincy. Tarquinn de Quincy as the best dressed, as the cleverest, the one with the nicest hair, the most popular, even the "One Most Likely to Single-Handedly Vanquish a Horde of Mutant Babaa."
Tarquinn de Quincy was Evaristus's pompous, vain Kyrii brother, indisputably the champion of the family with his handsome and meticulous dress, gallant attitude, and his ability to make ladies swoon with a mere polite bow and dazzling smile (I dare not even mention what his sparkling blue eyes and wavy violet locks did to some of his greatest admirers!). Day and night "Tarquinn the Illustrious" (a silly epithet some of his friends called him by) was off at some exciting and memorable engagement with his friends, whether it was at the Altador Cup screaming "Brightvale! Brightvale! Brightvale, go!" or at the wild and exotic Gadgadsbogen festival on Mystery Island, or even in Faerieland having a pleasant little social gathering at the Faerie Queen's castle -- Tarquinn had been everywhere. He was a star, a personality who intrigued and attracted thousands all wanting to be in his excellent company.
There was not a day that went by that Tarquinn did not receive at least three dozen letters and small gifts from random fans. Evaristus was the unfortunate one to usually accept these packages and to forward them to his brother. Even now there were piled up on the couch across the room a heap of letters, a few of them were pink or heart-shaped with lacy trimming. Evaristus's eye twitched at the sight of the letters. Who in Neopia would send Valentine's cards in July? he wondered miserably.
As if Evaristus's jealousy couldn't get much worse, that vile Tarquinn graciously dealt him newer and newer blows. The one thing Evaristus enjoyed, the only thing he felt comfortable and happy and strong in doing, was swordfighting. He was a natural talent, and he practiced his tricks and special feats many times daily. It was the only thing Evaristus received a bit of recognition for. He would defeat swarms of invisible opponents, cut, slash, dodge his way to victory, his sword moving in silver flashes of light all around, never resting for an instant. Evaristus would receive claps and cheers from lookers-on, and he would smile shyly and bow for he was not very good at conversation. And then, out of the grand blue sky would stroll Tarquinn de Quincy, and instantly Evaristus would be forgotten.
But no, there had been one unforgettable occasion where Tarquinn hadn't let Evaristus be ignored. In front of the crowd Evaristus had impressed with his talent, Tarquinn laughingly said, "Why, brother, what is that frantic dance you were just doing?"
"Just practicing my sword-fighting, that's all," Evaristus said lowly.
"Sword-fighting! My, how is it possible to fight without an opponent?" Tarquinn asked. "It looked to me as if you were but batting away a swarm of Bumbluz."
Evaristus said nothing, but his face reddened.
"Come!" Tarquinn clapped his bejeweled hands, calling to receive the crowd's attention and enthusiasm. "Wouldn't you all like to see a real display of talent? A real sword-fight?"
The crowd roared and nodded eagerly as Tarquinn unsheathed his own silvery blade and faced his sullen brother. Evaristus gulped and narrowed his eyes, hating how Tarquinn's magical voice seemed to induce the crowd to the Kyrii's side.
"Let's show these folks a spectacle they'll never forget!" Tarquinn called. "Are you ready, Evaristus?"
Evaristus stomped his foot. He hadn't wanted to do this! He wanted to run away from the unsmiling crowd, but stubbornness kept him there. He quickly realised he wanted to beat his brother, and he thought that perhaps he actually had a chance of doing so.
"Ready!" Evaristus yelled, craving the chance to prove himself at last.
The fight commenced with a blinding clash of shimmering blades. The crowd gasped and cheered, pointed out certain amazing parries and risky dives, and called out in loud voices whenever the fight had reached a particularly exciting point. However, Evaristus had been too slow and stiff; he couldn't compare to the confident fluid motions of his brother. Evaristus tripped over his own feet while trying to dodge a sudden thrust, and before he could comprehend what position he had landed in on the grass the tip of Tarquinn's blade was at his head. Tarquinn had won, and the crowd promptly cheered the illustrious prince.
No, there seemed to be nothing in which Evaristus had some talent at that Tarquinn had not already received a grand trophy for.
Tarquinn was not merely a fop, a pretty face with a graceful but hollow step -- he was an excellent and fierce fighter. He had fought in the Battle for Meridell, had helped the Defenders of Neopia defeat Neopia's greatest monsters and criminals, and all this he had done with that same loathsome cavalier smile. Evaristus could have gone mad!
Now it was the night of his own birthday, his lonesome day of becoming one year older. There were no gifts for him except a little jewelry box filled with linty jelly beans that his Krawk petpet, Ferdinand, had brought him. Evaristus crossed his arms and stared at the black fireplace. He had never admitted it, he had been too bitter to be sad, but, oh, how lonely he was tonight! If only there was one he could trust, confide in, feel like himself with ...
A sudden wind rattled the shutters of the windows and Evaristus looked up out of his dismal reverie. A distant door creaked, opened, then closed a few seconds later. So, Tarquinn had arrived home from yet another party, or festival, or ball. Evaristus sat in his dark spot and sighed.
"So, that arrogant poetry-loving weasel has returned from another frivolous adventure," he said to the empty room.
The nearby wood boards groaned and Evaristus almost jumped up in fright.
"Evaristus?" Tarquinn asked, standing in the doorway and surveying the dimly lit room. "Ah, there you are. What are you doing here?"
"Nothing really," the Usul muttered. "Where were you?"
"I?" Tarquinn put his hand over his chest. He walked into the room and stopped before the large armchair Evaristus was encamped in. "I have just returned from ... well, a party of sorts."
"Uhmm," Evaristus uttered. "You received fan letters today. They're on the chair over there."
Tarquinn turned to look at the pile of letters for him. "Right! I'll read those tomorrow. Not enough time tonight... Oh, Evaristus -- there's, uh, something I'd like to ..."
"And you also got a box of chocolates from an admirer today. I put that in the kitchen."
Tarquinn nodded. He swayed from foot to foot and seemed to have some trouble finding words -- a VERY unusual thing with him, indeed. "Thank you. But, Evaristus, there's something I have to say..."
Evaristus didn't want to hear what his brother had to say. He had had enough. He planned to lock himself into his room and celebrate his gloomy birthday there. He stood up, told his brother he had to go, and prepared to walk out the room.
"Wait! I must show you something! Outside!" Tarquinn said, putting a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"What? I'm really not interested."
"But you must be," Tarquinn insisted with his usual overbearing attitude, "Come along, there is no way I will let you go."
And so, Evaristus was dragged to the other side of the house, wincing and teary-eyed.
"There's nothing I want to see, let me go, I'm sleepy --" Evaristus complained weakly.
"Shh," Tarquinn said.
They were standing at the end of a lightless hall, right before the back entrance into the vast gardens.
"I just wanted to tell you happy birthday," Tarquinn said hesitantly.
In an instant Evaristus became quite angry. Tarquinn had dragged him here for this? Was he mad? "Happy birthday" -- that was all his brother had for him?
Evaristus opened his mouth for a bitter retort, but at that moment his brother pulled the door open and the sight of what lay in the moonlit efflorescent garden swept his breath away. A grand gathering of Neopets jumped and cheered, all dressed in bright summery clothes, and all beaming in excitement. The garden had swiftly been transformed into the scene of a party. There were long tables filled with biscuits and juice and cake, a dozen smaller tables for the guests, and thrice as many chairs. Music was being played from speakers fixed to poles. A dance floor had even been created out of a large space of soft grass and here a group of pets were already dancing barefoot in the summer night.
"Happy birthday!" the crowd shouted.
"Err... I... I..." Evaristus was too nervous to move and so Tarquinn pulled him outside into the middle of the happy crowd. Slowly, the bewildered Usul began to relax.
"Here!" Tarquinn called as he returned from a table covered with wrapped gifts, holding an unusually shaped present. "This is from me to you, my chevalier."
Tarquinn dropped the surprisingly heavy object into Evaristus's hands, stepped back, and waited eagerly for it to be opened. The present was hard, long, with what seemed to be a handle at one end... Evaristus shyly removed the gold and carmine wrapping paper, shyly because a whole mass of curious onlookers were watching him, and behold! -- in his very hands rested the gift of gifts, the one thing in all Neopia Evaristus had pined for, had dreamed of since he had begun his sword-fighting -- it was, without a doubt, a beautiful shining Sword of Skardsen!
"Tarquinn!" Evaristus gasped, and looked at his brother, wide-eyed, mouth open in wonderment.
His brother only laughed, waved a hand to the noisy partying crowd to hush them for a few moments. "May this gift help you reach your goals, Evaristus. I say, we must have many more fun sword fights soon!"
"Fun?" Evaristus wondered, "That time you humiliated me in front of dozens by beating me... was fun?"
Tarquinn raised his eyebrows, perplexed. "Surely, we were only putting on a show for our friends? I remember that fight, and what a delight it was! I still hear reminiscences about your excellent swordsmanship."
"But I lost..."
"What? Lost? We were not having a contest, my brother! Ohh, you are simply too serious; stop giving me that look!" Tarquinn laughed and put his arm over Evaristus's shoulder. Tarquinn then whispered into his brother's ear, "So this is quite a nice gift from an arrogant poetry-loving weasel, eh?"
Evaristus's face reddened. His brother had overheard him earlier!
"No, you misunderstand, Tarquinn. I..." Evaristus stuttered, trying to apologise sincerely, but Tarquinn raised a hand to silence.
"You forget at times, I think, that I am your greatest friend, Evaristus. I don't know what I'd do without you," Tarquinn said. "There is no malice between us, and never will be, for you are my one most trustworthy, and truly, my best friend, not to mention my brother!"