Tyrants and Heroes: Part One
This is a story on its own, but still a sequel to Hot Herb Tea and a Happy Ending. Apologies for the delay.
Life. In it, most of us are safe. We’re safe from corruption out there in the rest of the world that is caused by the corruption of outsiders. They’re always there, but they can’t get to us. We live on solid ground, and the evil lies in the ocean.
Most of the time, thieves and villains are out of the picture. We usually only encounter them if they choose to come ashore, onto our territory. But every now and then, we set sail.
When we get that impulse to make a boat and set sail, it is true that three or four times (maybe more, maybe less) in our lives we journey into the unknown. We let evil see us, and we fight for our lives if we have to. Some of us do it for friends, some do it for themselves. Sometimes, in some tales, it just so happens to be that it is done for both, as well as those who will be your descendants.
This could be very much considered one of those stories.
I was trying to relax, but something inside of me was anxious. It was one of those days that the rain was dense and fast, but I just couldn’t sit still. In the chair across from mine, a Red Hissi was coiled, appearing to be very absorbed in her book.
The words of mine were supposed to tell a collection of tales involving the Xweetoks before the disaster, before they were banished. At regular intervals, illustrations were shown. I knew it would be a bad time to leave the house, even if staying inside was hard.
I lazily scanned through pages, spending minutes on end to get through a single paragraph. Panicking slightly out of boredom, I made the decision of just flipping through and looking at the pictures. Most of them featured Valence and Serace playing jokes and crafting things in their workshop.
I stopped at an image of a giant Faerie Eyrie appearing to be very displeased at the two Xweetoks. Behind them, at least two Neopets of every species were watching the spectacle. It didn’t take me any guessing to recall that it was the famed scene. Their banishment, I thought as I shook my head at the incorrect depiction of the Creator.
Val and Serace were names familiar by every member of every forest in the vast woodlands. Some matter of millennia ago, they had betrayed the Creator by sharpening a piece of crystal into a boomerang and using it to cut down a section of the forest. In her rage, the Creator had grown them in size and banished them; not knowing where they would end up.
Wherever they did land, they flourished. Years passed after they left. But they weren’t gone for good.
They came back to hunt us down.
Xweetoks had become the greatest hazard by far. Any day could be the day that you never enter your home (which would have been dug out from under one of the great trees) again. In response, the Creator had brought a never-ending rain over the woods. She had also made the Ogrins (the species closest to her) her servants, which would become known as dust pixies. They were capable of transforming into a very small size in order to camouflage. They had led me away from Chix, the Huntress of Deepwood County, several times.
None of this meant that all Xweetoks were bad.
I was a Xweetok.
I was different, straight out of the books of the days before they had transitioned to Hunters. Rubia herself had turned me away before I fell in a Hunter’s trap; a saying went that Xweetoks never fell in their own traps. She had been the one to rescue me then.
I was very concerned about whether I was from the Distance (wherever the Hunters were when they weren’t trying to net foresters) or not, until I discovered the reality: I was a Creator’s child. Just the way the Creator would sometimes bring a forester to her so she could heal him or her, when one was lonely she would have made somebody to live with him or her. The nagging question of who I was hung over me for what seemed like a very, very long time.
Everything became clear at the most unexpected time. I had led Chix after me so she would neglect capturing a trio of friends, and obtained a critical leg injury in the process. There was no way I could have made it out.
And yet I did.
Evre, the dust pixy who had been entrusted with me, had slapped Chix’s head with the flat of her short sword at the last moment and brought me to the Creator, where she healed me. As I was leaving, I looked back at the Creator and uncovered the complete truth: She, too, was a Xweetok.
She was too ashamed to appear to foresters very often because she was ashamed to be a member of the Hunters’ species. All she wanted was somebody who understood.
One last thing before I go on; some of us say the last thing the Creator had said to Val and Serace before they were gone was that the next Xweetok to receive her magic would grow wings. Evidently, that was true. And I was the next one to receive her magic, and apparently she took it rather literally.
Finally, I decided my boredom was too much.
“I’m going to pick some berries.”
“Are you mad, Cerulean? It’s pouring out there, and our storage is already full!”
The reply was a wasted effort. I was already out the door.
Rhubarb never had been the healthiest Cybunny ever.
Oh yeah, and I was Rhubarb.
It was true; most foresters never had to worry about being unhealthy. They had greater worries, the same exact worries that kept them in such good shape.
The threatening Hunters.
Of course, every forester was always running from one: They were the descendants of the long-banished Xweetoks, back to capture us. The only option besides running was being caught, but nobody knew what the Xweetoks did with their prey; and nobody wanted to find out.
For a select few, though, we didn’t have to worry about running from them. That generally kept us in terrible shape.
As I had a rich brown coat which blended in with the rest of the forest, the Hunters would pass by me, and neither of us would notice the other. I was one of the few, the carefree. Many envied my coloration.
I slipped the last berry into my leaf. A gaping breath escaped my mouth as I turned around and headed back to my own house. Usually, I spent my days lying on my floor, not trying to achieve anything. I would forage. I would eat. I would sleep.
No matter how others phrased things, I didn’t understand their fears. They would always sigh and say, “If only you were like the rest of us!” But, like I always did, I never cared.
Despite these things, there was an insatiable desire inside of me that was against my every move. My subconscious understood it was there, but it wasn’t something I ever thought about. It never even surfaced my mind.
It was the desire for friends and adventure, and I had neither.
I lived alone, not remembering any friends or family, but I didn’t care. Of course I didn’t. I hardly even had acquaintances; I might as well have been nameless. How did I receive the name, anyways? But none of that mattered as much of the day that changed it all.
I hadn’t even realized I was standing in the middle of the old path. As you may have guessed by now, this was because I was used to not caring about anything at all. Something no sensible forester would ever do was stop in the middle of the road. I didn’t fall into the category of sensible foresters, and I hadn’t considered that camouflage never made a difference when you were standing smack in the middle of the trail.
That was when things happened all at once: Running feet gained on me, followed by a net wrapping around me. I shouted and dropped my leaf, but that was almost all. My feet moved, but it took a full split second to get one inch. Thankfully, the ear-splitting whoosh saved me. I whirled around when I heard it.
The culprit was standing right there, on top of a startled red Huntress in pink-purple armor. Chix must have been knocked out, because her eyes were closed and her head was against the ground. The Neopet stepped off of her. I didn’t see him right away due to a Draphly distracting me. So now you know the truth.
I do care about lots of things, just not the important ones.
“You’ll give me at least a small thank-you any day now, right?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks,” I muttered, still observing the petpetpet.
“I’ll do anything for a chance to use my wings. You’re welcome.”
Whoever it was started marching off, but I interrupted him.
“You’re a Xweetok! I just caught a glimpse of you!”
“Long story,” He chuckled. “I’ll tell you everything. Let’s go poke around the woods a little, I’m better at talking when my legs are in movement.”
“And here we-” I was about to introduce Rubia, but in her place, Bronco was hunched over in a chair by the table. The Mutant Kyrii looked tired and as if he had been sitting there for a while. I was surprised he wasn’t muttering.
“What are you doing over here, Bronco? I thought you said you’d be busy today.”
“I-I’m sorry. I should have never let her take Rubia. It’s my entire fault.” Bronco hung his head over.
My eyes widened and my mouth fell slightly open.
“Don’t follow me.” I turned my head around and requested as I reached the door to the hall. “Because I’m going to take the burden alone.”
“Surely Rubia wouldn’t want us being counterproductive like this?” Bronco said, but I’d already gone to the bedroom to let my emotions flow freely.
My eyes were clenched tight, focusing on what I envisioned. My child was still sprawled out in his bed, staring at the wall. He wasn’t crying or showing any signs of anger, he was just staring, seldom blinking.
The source of his reason for it was almost obvious. I allowed my mind to flow free and soon it found its way over to the Huntress. Although I was blind asides from close-up objects, my mind’s eye was powerful enough to envision what was going on.
There! The huge red Huntress that went by the name of Chix was walking towards her ship, a Hissi slumped across one shoulder. Take my child’s keeper? How could she?
A frown gradually played across my face. My thoughts were interrupted by an Ogrin.
“Did another one bite the dust? Why do they do that?” she remarked. Clearly, she was never satisfied when a Hunter was successful, but she never was concerned enough. These are other Neopets’ friends that are caught; as for the pet itself, it’s the end of the road. Ignoring her question, I pointed something out.
“Don’t you know who this one was?! She took care of him! He’s alone now!”
‘Him’ had come to mean Cerulean. Through my blurry vision, I could make out that Evre balanced her chin on her paw for one second.
“Oh. But why do they do that?”
“I think they do it for the thrill of the hunt, but they should still quit.”
“Creator, I meant what they DO with them.”
This slowed my rage down; the fury was instead replaced by a curiosity I never knew was there.
“I... don’t... know. I can’t see inside their world. Where they go is still a mystery. They must be stopped!” I slammed my fist on the ground, causing a small tremor. Evre replied a split second later, after recovering.
“Mother, I don’t see any clear way to-”
“They must be stopped!” I emphasized the ‘must’, this time slapping both paws to the floor.
“I see more than you can! You think fast, but not much. I’ll keep watching: I’ll find a way!”
“Do you think we should go in after him?” Rhubarb questioned me.
“No. I don’t think you’ve ever faced something like this; it really is a big deal when one of us gets bagged. But Rubia’s been with is for so long,” I responded and sighed, still feeling shamed for Cerulean. Sighing again, I sprawled on the floor, cradling my head on my forepaws. It reminded me of times long gone.
We had all been happy until Chix... Mom and Dad... Yeah.
There had been much mourning at the next meeting; and when they all got over it, I don’t know what exactly happened then. Everybody said that Tor would be the best caretaker for us, so we went to him. Come to think of it, most of our memories had been with Tor!
One day, a traveler by the name Rubia arrived. She carried with her many exotic goods, and we were fascinated by all of them. We were sometimes babysat by her, and treasured those moments. Secretly, we wished we could go with her, but we all knew that we couldn’t ask to let her take over without offending Tor.
Eventually, we got old enough to make our own house. We shared it because we were so used to living together. One day, we took in a fellow orphan that we had pity on: a Baby Jubjub by the name of Hill.
But Rubia had still been a great babysitter, and because (goody goody) our foster-dad never had much medical knowledge, we were actually glad to be sick. She was the one to care for us then. We came to admire her so much, that when Cerulean came along and the odds were against Rubia at the meeting of Cerulean’s introduction, that we had to save her from exile...
Later, Cerulean, her Child, was assumed caught. Somehow, I felt guilty, because I was the last person he had spoken to. It couldn’t be coincidence, because I had definitely felt closer to Cerulean than Callie.
But what I was truly ashamed of was that when he came back, I failed him.
Rubia and I were together in the bushes, picking berries and whispering to each other about the old days. It all happened so fast...
All I remember was that I had been in the perfect position to maul Chix and save Rubia.
But I was a moment late.
“Guys, it’s okay. I’m done, I’ll take the facts. But we need to deal with this problem somehow, and if we fail, at least I’ll be with her again,” Cerulean stated, apparently trying to lead up to something. By the tone of voice, I could tell that he knew what he was trying to lead up to. The last bit was as though he wouldn’t regret being caught at all.
“Wait, what? Are you possibly saying that-“
“Yes, I am. Taking it out on that Huntress has been a slight pastime of me, correct? And no matter what anybody else says, I’m not taking Rubia for dead.”
“We’re going to try a rescue?”
To be continued...