Anna's Big Race
BAM! The race had started! The crowd was screaming! It was a beautiful, albeit hot, afternoon, and things were going the way they usually did. There was Poogle One in the front, just like always, Poogle Two racing behind her in a close second. And Poogle Five (her name is Anna, she would tell you indignantly) was all the way at the end, nothing unusual about that. The race had barely even started, and she was already hopelessly far behind. It just wasn't fair! Anna practised her jumping so hard, exercised for so long, and yet she still rarely ever won. It was her luck, she just knew it. Anna had bad luck following her the way some pets had clingy Petpets. And bad luck, it made Anna's feet slow down and her heart speed up. It made her sloppy on her jumps, and it made her sluggish in her running. There was only one condition that could turn all that bad luck around, and that condition was her brother. Something about that Poogle made Anna realise she could do it. And then she would win, each and every time, like a stroke of magic.
But Anna's lucky day was not today. Her brother was off travelling in Terror Mountain or Tyrannia or someplace like that, and he wasn't going to be back for months. "I'll send you postcards," he'd told her. Yeah, like that would help.
There was Poogle One, somehow managing to strut and sprint at the same time, acting like she was the coolest thing since, well, sliced bread. How does that Poogle do it? Anna thought. Poogle One managed a difficult jump, and the crowd went wild. Comparing the pathetic, half-hearted little whistles of Anna's fans to the ballistic screaming of Poogle One's was like comparing Fyora the Faerie Queen to Jhudora.
Anna concentrated hard on the obstacles ahead of her, even managing a few jumps. She had passed Poogle Four! And she was gaining on Poogle Three! Anna could hardly believe her good fortune. Then, suddenly, Anna felt herself rolling and tumbling off course. She had tripped over an obstacle and had a nasty fall. By the time Anna was on her feet again, she was back where she started: all the way at the end.
If only my brother were here! Anna thought. Anna had had the smallest taste of a victory, and now she was really in the mood to win. It was the last race of the day, and she wanted to make it count. And anyway, she was so sick of Poogle One's arrogance. She wanted to show Poogle One that she could be beaten by Anna, the Poogle who brought up the rear. But what could Anna do? Her brother was nowhere to be found, and Anna had, by now, made her way back to her usual spot, the last place.
By now Anna was miles behind the other Poogles, and the race was halfway through. There was nothing she could do. She looked far ahead of her to see Poogle One and Poogle Two battling for the front. And she looked into the crowd, desperate for some sort of reassurance that she could still be the first to make it past the finish line. Wait -- was that... was that her brother?! It was! Well, Anna couldn't really tell; he was so far away, but -- just look at him! The Poogle was wearing a polka-dot hat; how could it not be him?! And he was cheering for her!
I can't believe this! He's here! Ann thought, elated. And he's rooting for me! I can do this! All traces of her bad luck seemed to evaporate. She concentrated on the movement of her legs, watched out for any obstacles. There was one coming up! Anna thought of her brother up there, cheering, and she knew she could do it. And... she did! The Poogle could hardly believe it. And the crowd... it was starting to cheer for her! She was ahead of Poogle Four now, just in front of Poogle Three. She was getting closer and closer to the front, and the other Poogles were starting to notice. They upped their game, too. And Poogle One, she turned around to look at Anna, and she winked! The nerve of that Poogle! That really made Anna mad. I'm not going to lose again! she seethed. Running faster, faster, faster... she could just see her brother out of the corner of her eye, bestowing some sort of magical power on her. She left Poogle Two in the dust! And... Anna was catching up to Poogle One! They were neck and neck, just moments away from crossing the finish line! Anna squeezed her eyes shut, ran as fast as her legs could carry her, and... there was a crash as Poogle One tripped over an obstacle! Anna crossed the finish line and -- SHE HAD WON! ANNA, THE ONE WHO ALWAYS LOST, SHE HAD WON!
Anna shook hands with Poogle Four, Poogle Three, and Poogle Two. She was walking up to Poogle One when Ann noticed how miserable the Poogle looked.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"How do you do it?" Poogle One snarled. "One minute you're back there, and the next you're in front of me! It's not fair!"
Anna didn't know what to say. "It's just luck, I guess," she said. Poogle One snorted, frustrated, and walked away.
Anna was just walking on air as she went to greet her newfound fans. They all asked her, "What happened up there?" And all she could say was, "It's just luck," "It's just luck," "It's just luck." While the sudden surge in her popularity was nice for a bit, autographs weren't really her thing. Anna wanted to see her brother. She wanted to thank him. Anna went around and around, lost. And then, there he was! By the brown Bori! Anna ran up to him to give him a hug, and...
It. Wasn't. Her brother. Once she had gotten closer, Anna realised that the two could not have been more different. "Oh, uh, sorry, I thought you were someone else," Ann said hastily, awkwardly stepping away. The Poogle-who-wasn't-her-brother shook his head as if to say, "Don't worry about it," and went back to talking with the Bori.
Anna went home in a daze, utterly stumped. She couldn't figure out how in the world she had won without her brother's help. Every single time he was there, she had won, without fail, and each and every time he wasn't there, Anna lost. Each and every time! And now this! Anna thought and thought, and suddenly she wondered if -- no, that couldn't be. Just look at her description on the betting page: "Poogle Five: This chubby Poogle has not been getting much exercise lately, and it shows... Odds 9:1." It couldn't be true! It said right there that she was some silly weakling who didn't bother to even exercise! But how else could it be? Could she have... could Anna have won the race all by herself? Without her brother's luck? It was such a weird concept for her. All Anna's life, she thought she couldn't ever win anything without luck. And look -- she had just won a Poogle race, no good fortune involved! I can't believe this, Anna thought, smiling. I never knew I could do it all by myself!
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|Tatterwings: Part Four|
The seven travellers soon found that they couldn't keep up the pace that they had originally set. Bruno didn't appear at all tired, but finally, when even Rafe was drooping, Ioni said, "We can't go on like this... we need to slow down."