Big Four (Minus One): A Tale of Sports Legends
The young Pirate Krawk rowed his small rowboat across the seas in search of adventure. Little did he know that this particular adventure would lead him to a future which nearly every Neopian would envy: a future as a Neopian household name. In the future his name would be hailed by sports announcers, recognized by fans everywhere and, perhaps most of all, feared by members of every other Yooyuball team his team would come into contact with.
He had gone by a nickname long enough that no one, not even himself, knew of his real name, despite his young age.
Of course, this young Krawk would grow to become one of the most recognized figures on and off the Yooyuball court: Dasher Soley of Team Krawk Island. However, like nearly every other Altador Cup player, he bears a secret that not even fans know.
The three young Neopets he learned to play Yooyuball from did not grow to become members of his team. Rather, they grew to become three of Krawk Island’s greatest rivals...
On that particular day long ago, when many of today’s Yooyuball players were at a young age, Dasher had ventured quite further from his home than he ever could have imagined.
Boating is a great hobby for citizens of Krawk Island, as it allows them to emulate the famous pirates of their history. Not only that, but it satisfies every young Neopet’s urge to explore the world, and Dasher Soley was one of the more adventurous ones.
He realized that he’d gone further than he’d ever gone before. Looking back, he noticed that his homeland wasn’t even visible from here.
This was still an island, but an entirely different one from the one where he lived. It was a small and bright sort of place, full of lush greenery where one could hide himself, a perfect hideaway for a young adventurer. Yet, the Pirate Krawk wasn’t the first to discover this place as he soon discovered: a group of Neopets of about his own age were out in a field.
Three of them were standing there, and one of them, a Yellow Blumaroo, appeared to be teaching the other two how to play a game. The others looked on as the Blumaroo picked up a brightly colored sling and scooped what looked to be a Petpet into it. There was an open, netted space a small distance from the point the Neopets were standing at. The Blumaroo ran as fast as he could, let go of the Petpet, and knocked it into part of the netted space.
Another Petpet popped up and one of the other Neopets, a Darigan Hissi, picked up the sling and repeated the Blumaroo’s actions. The Petpets just kept popping up out of nowhere, and the three Neopets (the third among them was a Halloween Kyrii) kept throwing them into the netted area.
Finally, Dasher leapt out of the bush where he’d been hiding and asked, “What exactly is it that you’re doing?”
“It’s called Yooyuball,” whispered the Hissi. “Maybe Lilo will be able to teach you as well.”
The Yellow Blumaroo named Lilo came up to him.
“Welcome to Roo Island, by the way. You appear to be quite far from your home.”
“Well, it’s not like that Hissi and that Kyrii over there aren’t lost,” responded Dasher. “After all, don’t they live in the Darigan Citadel and the Haunted Woods?”
“They’re here on their own free will. They wandered over here one day, found out what I was doing, and now they come here every day to learn how to play from me.”
“Well... hi. My name’s Dasher.”
“Hello. I’m Lilo, the Kyrii is Krell, and the Hissi you were talking to before is named Layton.”
(As one may already be suspecting, their last names were Blumario, Vitor, and Vickles, respectively.)
“Come on,” said Lilo. “Krell, Layton, and I would be more than happy to teach you how to play.”
The seasons passed, and the group of three transformed into a group of four. Dasher now came to Roo Island every day, and upon returning home, taught some fellow Neopets from Krawk Island. Still, though his skills were radically improving, he never missed a day of practice at his home away from home.
However, this paradise was not without its changes, as Dasher discovered one day years after his first visit. Lilo and Layton were gathered in the field as was normally expected, but something (or rather someone) was missing.
“Yesterday was Krell’s last day here,” whispered Lilo. “He says that he’d rather try to start his own league and get into professional Yooyuball than continue to play with us. I personally regret his departure, but I hope he makes it out there. Even though he left us, I’ll still be cheering him on, that’s for sure.”
For a few moments, there was nothing but silence. Dasher and Lilo might have been passionate about the game, they might have wanted to play professionally, but despite the fact that they taught other Neopets from their own homelands, they hadn’t gone so far as to create an actual league.
“I started a league recently.”
That voice belonged to Layton, the first to break the silence.
“What?” retorted Dasher. “You’re not leaving us too, are you? You have no idea how much we’d miss you down here!”
“Relax, I’m not leaving. I’m just saying that no matter how much we may try to stop it, someday we might make it onto the Yooyuball field, but as rivals, not on the same team. Krell was the first to realize that.”
“How’s your league going, Layton?” asked Lilo, curious about his progress.
“It started off well. My league members all thought that I was a natural leader and appointed me as captain.”
“Yes, but... there’s this other player, who can be a bit troublesome. At first, the league was doing great, but more and more, he’s refusing to follow the team strategies, just spontaneously playing the game. And then one day, he tackled me on the playing field.”
“Why would a player tackle their fellow team member?” asked Dasher. “It makes absolutely no sense!”
“He wanted to get to the goal before I could.”
Both fellow players stood, mouths agape. No matter how much Layton’s friend may have wanted the glory, such behavior was uncalled for... and towards a team captain, at that!
“That’s when I realized... he may be threatening my position. No matter how much I want to kick him off our team, I just can’t. He’s a great forward, and he’s already a fan favorite. It’s not being team captain that worries me, it’s the fact that I don’t know what happens to a captain when he steps down. By threatening my current position, he could be ensuring that I never make it into pro Yooyuball, and I just don’t want that to happen.”
“What’s his name?”
“That’s the thing. Since we may be rivals one day... I just can’t tell you. You already know too much.”
After saying this, Layton ran through the forest and used his Hissi wings to propel him into the sky.
“He’s going back to the Citadel,” explained Lilo. “I don’t think he felt comfortable telling us about that.”
Four players had dissolved into two, and at that moment, Dasher knew that he must become a professional Yooyuball player.
It was the only way to discover the identity of the Darigan Yooyuball forward, the one whose ambitions almost entirely disbanded the group who had first taught him to find his calling.
Years passed by, and slowly, all four of the players had been drafted into the professional teams of their home lands. This was everything they’d ever dreamed of, but three of them realized that something was missing.
Krell was the only player not to be distracted by the former relationships between the rival teams. It came as no wonder that his team, Haunted Woods, had won the first Altador Cup, and that he was the first ever Yooyuball MVP.
Everything changed during that championship game, though. All he could do was remember his past. During one play, when his team was one point ahead, he’d been so close to the Darigan goal when he saw one player standing in front of him. Naturally, he passed the Yooyu to him, just as he had done so many times before.
A few moments later, a whistle sounded. Goal for Team Darigan Citadel.
The Haunted Woods defender’s eyes widened in shock. He knew he could’ve stopped that goal, he knew he could’ve scored, but there was something about that particular player that’d forced him to pass that Yooyu.
After the fateful championship game, his teammate, Zo Junior, asked him, “What was up with that play that tied the game, Krell? Couldn’t you see that you’d passed to a Darigan player?”
Just as he walked away from the locker room and towards the award ceremony, he’d realized what had happened. For one moment, the rivalries had all melted away, and he’d accidentally recognized the player as a fellow team member. As he walked towards the winners’ podium, he heard a familiar voice coming from the second-place platform.
“Still remembering your past, Krell?”
The player winked at him as he went up to accept his All-Star Forward trophy and stood next to a Roo Island forward. Those were two players that, despite his rivalry, he remembered all too well.
“I passed the ball to... Layton?”
Time continued to pass by, and now Altador Cup III was about to commence.
Dasher sat by, remembering the previous year. As usual, Krawk Island had come so close to winning it all, but this time, Darigan Citadel beat them to the Altador Cup... which of course meant that Layton was the current MVP.
Despite the fact that his current ‘rival’ had made it into professional Yooyuball on one of the most acclaimed teams, Dasher still couldn’t help but remember the real reason he’d decided to become a Krawk Island player. Now that Layton was MVP, it was almost positive that the other forward would close in on his position harder than ever.
“Maybe I should retire this year,” he thought. After all, Lilo and Krell had already told him that they were planning to do the same, as the rivalries between the four teams were at an all-time high. “But first, I have to find what I’ve been looking for all this time.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door of the ‘captain’s quarters’, as every team member called it. The Pirate Krawk opened the door to reveal Garven Hale, his goalkeeper.
The two began to talk, and finally Dasher said, “I think it’d be the best if I retired this year.”
“You’re our best player! Besides, whatever happened to ‘winning one for ol’ Dash’?”
“I was never in this game to win it, Garven. The reason why I took this position was because I heard that one of the team captains is being threatened by one of his fellow players.”
So, the Krawk Island forward explained everything.
The Pirate Bori replied in surprise, “You’re close friends with Layton Vickles?”
“Is there anything wrong with that? I mean, it’s not like it interferes with my playing during matches with Darigan Citadel, right?”
“No, of course not. However, I never would have suspected this other forward to be this way...”
“You know who the player threatening Layton is?”
“Well, considering that Darigan uses a 2+2 playing format, and considering that you used the terms ‘fan favorite’ to describe him, then it’s simple. Ever wonder why the Darigan Citadel always beats us at Make Some Noise?”
Before Dasher could answer, Garven said in a girly-sounding voice, “Go Darigan! Of course, we only want you to win so that the forwards look good! Wait a second, who on Neopia is that Darigan Hissi on the field? All we care about is Tandrak over there!”
Dasher fell over laughing.
“That’s a good impression of a Shaye fangirl! You had me convinced... oh, right. You meant it as a hint!”
“Glad you figured that out,” replied the goalkeeper. “Just don’t you dare make me do that ever again!” He turned around and muttered, “The things I do for the captain...”
Meanwhile, drama was unfolding at the Darigan locker room as well.
“Everyone, please settle down!” yelled a Darigan Gelert, who’d walked up in front of the rest of the players. “Now, as we all very well know, we won the Altador Cup last year. What significance does that have to us?”
“Uh... we can brag to the Roo Island team every time we see them that we won and they lost?” The Gelert sighed, not even bothering to see who had just muttered that remark.
“No! It means that we could be affected by the so-called ‘winner’s curse’ this year! That is, unless we can try as hard as possible. So, are there any ideas for strategies for avoiding the winner’s curse?”
“I have one, Tandrak,” said Kep Bonnefie, one of Darigan’s defenders.
“What is it?”
Chuckling slightly, Kep boomed, “Step away from the strategy board and let Layton get here to do his job! After all, he is your team captain!” The rest of the team broke out in laughter at this response.
“That leads us to the first point I’d like to cover,” Tandrak continued. “My strategy is to replace the player that I feel needs to be replaced the most. After all, how far can our team get without a good team captain?”
“Okay, either you’re trying to trick us by telling us Layton is amazing, after we think you’re about to say he’s horrible,” continued Kep, “or this is another plan for you to knock him from his rightfully earned position and become team captain yourself.”
“Seriously, Kep, have you noticed how often he’s gone from these meetings? There has to be something seriously wrong with him; he barely comes out of his chambers, and when he does, he’s distracted from his duties as team captain. I decided to give him a chance at creating a team strategy, but just look at what he did instead!”
The fan-favorite Darigan forward angrily turned the strategy board to reveal a huge drawing of the Team Darigan Citadel logo. Inside the logo was another drawing of the actual floating citadel where the team made their home, and under this elaborate drawing, in Layton’s handwriting, was the words ‘Team Darigan Citadel rocks’.
“Well, Layton does have a point,” announced Kep.
Getting annoyed by her interruptions, Tandrak growled, “And what exactly would that point be?”
“We do rock!”
After the ill-fated meeting ended, Kep, feeling concern for her teammate (despite being a Darigan citizen), walked into the huge quarters where the meetings were normally held. On a desk in the room she found a note and gasped in disbelief.
“Everyone, come in here! You’re never going to believe this!”
The rest of the team just stood idly in apathy.
Two of the players rushed to meet Kep.
“Oh, and did I forget to mention that he’s making Tandrak captain now?”
The last remaining player (who was Tandrak, of course) rushed to meet the other players.
“Finally!” he yelled.
Just then, he noticed that the other team members were gone.
“Off to catch Layton before the Committee officially recognizes him as a retired player?” He sighed. “I should have known.”
The whole of Team Darigan (minus Layton, of course, and Tandrak, who happened to be following them) began to run towards the Committee Room of the Stadium, where players could report foul play, attempt to override a call the referee had made, and (most important to them at the moment) announce official retirement.
“There he is!” yelled Kep. Sure enough, there was Layton with his Team Darigan membership card, out and ready to have the ‘retired’ stamp placed on it. He was almost to the Committee Room already.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” hissed Tandrak from behind. “I’d make a great team captain: the fans already love me, I’d never get distracted...”
“Get out of our way! Of course we’re sure about this!” One of the team members pushed the aspiring captain out of the way, which was enough to distract him for a slight moment (hence contradicting his previous statement).
As Team Darigan grew closer on the Darigan Hissi’s trail, they realized that there was a small line waiting for the committee’s assistance. This could be enough to buy them time.
Just as the team was pondering this, they ran into a Maraquan Eyrie.
“It’s Jair Tollet of Team Roo Island!” muttered one of the team members (as they were in a close crowd, it was hard to tell which player said this). “There’s only one thing to do at a time like this: hey, Jair, we won and you lost!” Kep shook her head and sighed in annoyance in response.
“There’s no time for that!” yelled the former Team Maraqua player. “Lilo just went missing! Then, we realized that he’s over there, trying to retire!”
“There’s no time for this!” repeated Kep. “Layton just went missing, and now he’s trying to retire!”
“And I’m trying to stop them from stopping him from retiring so I can just be team captain already!” That (obviously) was Tandrak, who had gotten up from his fall a few moments ago.
Behind Team Roo Island and Team Darigan, Team Haunted Woods and Team Krawk Island rushed over, bumping into the other two teams.
“Let me guess,” started the Haunted Woods player Zo Junior. “Your team captains are retiring as well, and you’re all trying to stop them from doing so?”
“All of us minus Tandrak,” remarked Kep. “What are we waiting for, anyway? It’ll be a loss to any team if these players retire!” She then muttered, “Especially ours, considering who the replacement captain is!”
Quickly, all four teams found their captains and convinced them not to retire. When this happened, all four teams returned home in silence.
(Except for Tandrak, who remarked, “Hey! Kep, I heard that!”)
Even more years had passed, and now the fifth Altador Cup was about to begin. Now, every member of the ‘Big Four’ alliance (as it was now called) had their own Altador Cup laying within a trophy case in their part of the stadium. Sooner or later, they all knew that one day, one of these great players would have to retire, and the others would eventually fall suit.
Dasher Soley was that first player to retire. Then again, he couldn’t have retired on a better note: although there was no MVP award last year, the others didn’t seem to mind as long as Krawk Island won just one time. Better yet, Krell’s fateful pass to Layton during the first Altador Cup had changed him, and the four were closer than ever. Even if they were rivals, they could still be friends.
Of course, Dasher realized, not everything was perfect in the world of Yooyuball. What many considered to be the ‘winner’s curse’ on Team Darigan Citadel’s part wasn’t a curse at all, but a case frightfully similar to that of Team Maraqua: one player had, in his mad pursuit of power among his team members, split the team on one side or another, eliminating true, perfect teamwork. Even members of the same team could be rivals.
All Tandrak Shaye had ever wanted was to win, to lead his team to victory. Rather, he had lead his team into infighting and losses year after year. They were still a top-tier team, but ever since he’d challenged his own captain’s position, the team had never been quite the same.
For this very reason, Dasher had been painstakingly careful in his decision of the replacement captain. He might not be able to save his childhood friend’s team, but he could save his own from a similar fate.
Sometimes, when he saw Garven Hale’s ambition to become captain, he thought of the parallel ambitions of the Darigan Gelert who had almost ruined one of the most renowned teams in the Altador Cup. Finally, though, he realized that the two couldn’t be more different: Garven never challenged him, never told anyone else of the unusually close relationship of the Big Four. It was then that the Pirate Krawk finally saw that he couldn’t have found a more perfect replacement.
Krell or Lilo would probably be the next to retire, or so Dasher thought. But in his mind, he knew that Layton would stay longer than any of them; he would never leave the Yooyuball court until he was assured that Tandrak, his utmost rival, had left it before he himself did. The Darigan Citadel captain simply would not leave the team until he knew that the next team captain could make his team great again.
Just when the fifth Altador Cup was about to commence, Dasher walked through the Coliseum, but he wasn’t going to go to see his former team. Out of all the members of the Big Four, he’d always considered Layton to be his closest friend. He didn’t care anymore how unnatural it might seem or what the fans would think, he was going to check on Team Darigan’s process, no matter what.
As he walked past the practice Yooyuball field, he heard a player screaming in pain. He’d found Layton, playing a practice game with Dasher’s former team, but of course, Layton wasn’t injured.
Then, Dasher remembered: Tandrak was on the Committee’s official list of injury-prone players. No matter how much he hoped that this would be a chance for the Altador Cup II champions to rebuild, he realized that Tandrak was standing next to Layton, unhurt and feeling almost pleased about the situation, while his companion just stood there, his eyes wide in horror.
The injured player was a Shoyru of Krawk Island, but not even Dasher recognized him.
“Feldon!” yelled Garven. “Are you all right? How are we ever going to replace you? The Cup’s about to begin!”
“D-Dasher Soley,” muttered the Shoyru. “In front of us.” The former Krawk Island team captain felt a rush of pride at being recognized by a rookie.
“Of course!” sighed Garven in relief, turning to Dasher. “Please help! You’re the only other player who knows our strategies!”
“But I retired...”
Just then, Layton winked at him. “You have to do this, Dasher. The Big Four can be reunited on the field for one last season. This is your chance.”
Thoughts of Roo Island filled Dasher’s mind: being with those who’d taught him Yooyuball without any fear of being punished or otherwise for being with members of another team. This was the way it was meant to be, but he knew his team counted on him.
Layton counted on him as well, since Dasher was still the only one who knew of Team Darigan’s secret. Everyone counted on him (except Tandrak, of course).
This was his chance to prove himself yet again.
“I’ll play for you again, Garven,” said Dasher. “But I’ll only be with you for one more season.
“For one more time.”
Hope you enjoyed! Next time, look in the 'series' section for The Vickles-Shaye Battles, the next chapter in the saga!