A First Time For Everything: Part One
Altodar had trouble relating to other Lupes.
On the outside, he was just like a normal Lupe. Bright eyes, pricked ears, bushy tail, attentive stance. But it was on the inside that Altodar differed.
Altodar did not spend his days chasing after Chias. He didn’t enjoy playing games like others of his kind. And prowling Neopia was never on his agenda.
So what did Altodar do? He read, and read, and read. Reading was his passion-his life, even- and it was what kept him busy all hours of the day. Nothing could pull Altodar away from his precious books, not even King Altador himself.
Why do I need to go outside and play when I can read all about it? Altodar would tell himself.
And so the Blue Lupe would read his days away... ignoring the happy squeals and shouts of his brethren as they frolicked out in the sun.
One bright and warm summer morning, Altodar woke up to a noise outside. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, the Lupe peered out his window curiously. A great crowd had gathered below his window and was heading to the stadium.
Altodar sighed. Was it time for the Altador Cup already? Living in the kingdom of Altador, the Lupe had long since gotten used to the massive crowds that arrived each year in the Month of Relaxation. Annoying as they were, sometimes it was interesting to watch the crazed fans hurry by his home, desperate to meet their Yooyuball heroes.
Snapping to attention, Altodar saw a Neopet who had stopped in the crowd and was looking up at his window. Squinting, Altodar could make out the form of a Blue Xweetok.
“Blewby! Why don’t you come in?” Altodar suggested, noticing certain members of the crowd shooting him angry glares for blocking the path.
“Oh... good idea!” Blewby said, realizing the trouble he was causing. “Be there in a second.”
As the Xweetok pushed himself through the throng to reach Altodar’s front door, Altodar thought he knew the reason for his friend’s visit.
“No, I am not interested in viewing the Altador Cup this year,” Altodar stated as Blewby crossed the threshold. His smile turning into a frown, Blewby replied, “Why not?”
“You know why!” Altodar snorted. “I see no need to fight through those crowds and wait in line for hours just to see a game of Yooyuball. I mean, I’ve already read The Altador Cup Rulebook, Altador Cup Through The Ages, 1,001 Yooyuball Tips...” Altodar listed off the many books regarding the hallowed tournament.
“I know, I know, you’ve read all about it and there can’t possibly be any difference between what you read and what you see with your eyes,” Blewby interrupted sarcastically. “What I’m trying to say is that there’s a first time for everything. The Altador Cup is a completely different experience. You should know better than everyone that I don’t like crowds that much. I too would rather read about most events in books. But the Altador Cup is different.”
“You say that to me every year!” Altodar growled, unconvinced. “And then you blather on about how the AC is ‘history in action’.” At that comment Blewby smiled wryly.
“I do say that, because it’s true! History at its best, if you ask me,” Blewby insisted. Then he added, “And I do not blather!”
Altodar snickered. Despite being aggravatingly persistent, Blewby was his best friend. Maybe he would give in this year...
No! Altodar scolded himself. He could get all the information he needed from books. Going to even one Yooyuball game would bring back unwanted and unneeded memories.
“I’m sorry, Blewby,” Altodar sighed. Nodding understandingly, Blewby turned around and re-joined the crowd, his tail drooping despondently. Watching his friend get swallowed by the crowd, Altodar did feel sorry. The Altador Cup obviously meant a lot to Blewby. But was it really worth the chance?
Shaking his head, Altodar closed the door and returned to his room. Pulling out his favorite AC book, the Lupe settled himself on his bed and absorbed himself in the world of Yooyuball.
Attempted to absorb himself, anyways. No matter how hard he tried, Altodar could not get Blewby’s sad and hopeful face out of his mind. But along with that face came echoes of painful memories of the past.
Sighing, Altodar placed his head on his paws. Maybe after a brief nap his head would be cleared.
His dream started out normal. He was reading a book on the AC in his room. The words whispered to him, enticing him to read further.
But then things started to get strange. Blewby burst into the room chased by a horde of Yooyus, screaming, “It’s history in action, my friend! History in action!” The Yooyus bounced around the room, knocking books off the shelves here and there. Altodar frantically tried to pick up the books and prevent them from being trampled by the Petpets, but something kept pushing him out of the way. Distinctly Lupe-like shapes surrounded him, teasing him for not being any good at a game. But every time Altodar turned towards one of them, they disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Coughing, Altodar blinked open his eyes...
...only to find that his dream had blended with reality. Smoke was streaming into his room through the window, clouding his vision. Spluttering, Altodar rushed to the window to see the cause of all the smoke.
Outside, it was chaos. Spectators of the tournament were running in panic from the stadium, stumbling over themselves and each other. Faces were peeking out of windows, trying to see what was going on through all the smoke. Altodar coughed again, his eyes watering.
It appeared that the source of the smoke was the stadium itself. Billows of it rose into the air and spread out over the city. Looking closer, Altodar could see flames rising from the stands. What could have happened?
Just then Blewby burst through the door, his brown and blue fur stained black with soot. Altodar ran over to his friend, who collapsed in a coughing fit.
“What happened?!” Altodar asked, helping Blewby to his feet.
“Fire yooyu--out of control--clockwork--big explosion-” Blewby broke off, once again consumed by coughing.
“Here, let’s go into the kitchen and get you something to drink,” Altodar suggested, gently guiding the wheezing Xweetok. He was genuinely worried for his friend. Hopefully he hadn’t been exposed to too much smoke.
Sitting Blewby down in a chair, Altodar quickly prepared Lavender Mint Tea and set it before his friend. Blewby drank it gratefully, sighing as the liquid soothed his throat.
“That’s much better,” Blewby croaked, his voice still sore from the exposure to the smoke.
“So what happened?” Altodar asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“It was incredible,” the Xweetok started, a fierce excitement setting his eyes ablaze. “Today’s match was Altador vs. Virtupets, and Keetra Deile was taking a Fire Yooyu for the goal. And then out of nowhere came a Clockwork Yooyu. In her haste to get out of the way, Deile kicked the Fire Yooyu straight towards the Clockwork. The two Yooyus collided and set off a humongous explosion.”
Altodar gasped, his eyes widening in horror. “Was anybody hurt?”
“Not that I know of. Deile got as far away from that Yooyu as possible. But the whole left side of the stadium is destroyed,” Blewby scowled.
“Wow... that’s terrible,” Altodar whistled, amazed at how much damage such a small Petpet could cause.
“Terrible!?” Blewby exclaimed. “It was amazing! It will go down as one of the biggest AC explosions in history!”
Altodar shook his head. “You and your history,” he grumbled playfully. But in his mind, Altodar was thinking hard. Nobody was hurt this time, but what if the same thing happened again, only worse?
“Thanks a lot, Altodar,” Blewby sighed, standing up and heading for the door. “I’ll head home now, and leave you to your books.”
Altodar nodded, staring at his paws. “Wait!” he blurted out before Blewby could leave. “When do they think the stadium will be ready for the next game?”
“Next week. You weren’t thinking of going, were you?” Blewby asked hopefully.
“Of course not,” Altodar replied, trying to add certainty into his voice. But Blewby had always been able to read Altodar like a book; starting from the first day he met him. The furrow in Altodar’s eyebrows proved that the Lupe was far from coming to a decision.
“Oh, okay. See you later, Al,” Blewby replied, smiling to himself.
Altodar’s dreams were troubled that night. Images of his past kept reappearing, playing themselves like movies in his head...
The sun was shining brightly and a pack of young Lupes were running around in the field by Altodar’s childhood home, a small, two-story country house. Altodar ran towards them, eager to join them in their game.
“Hello, can I play?” he asked excitedly once they were in earshot.
“Why not?” a scruffy Fire Lupe responded. He cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. “You’re new here, aren’t ya?” he asked with a country twang.
“Yes, my family just moved here from Brightvale,” Altodar replied, uncomfortably aware of how different his voice sounded.
“Aw, so he’s a smart un,” the Lupe laughed to the others. They joined in, shoving each other playfully. The Fire Lupe was obviously the leader of the group. Altodar shuffled his feet nervously. “I’m only playin’ with ya,” the Lupe reassured. “So what’s ya name?”
“Like tha King?” a female Speckled Lupe asked in awe.
“Yes,” Altodar replied shyly. “So what are your names?” he asked quickly, trying to get the attention off of his namesake.
“Mine’s Blaze,” the Fire Lupe replied gruffly. “Her name’s Liza.” He gestured to the Lupe who had mentioned the King. “That there’s Scooter.” A Skunk Lupe gave Altodar a friendly nod. “And tha pretty lil’ pink girl is Timu.” Timu smiled warmly, wagging her tail.
“It’s nice to meet all of you.” Altodar beamed. His first friends at his new home!
“So ya still wanna join us?” Blaze asked.
“Well, uh...” Altodar trailed off, realizing that he had no idea what they were playing or how to play it.
“Don’ worry, we’ll show ya how ta play!” Liza grinned, recognizing his hesitation. Altodar smiled gratefully.
“All ya hafta do,” Scooter started. “Is try ta... catch us!” And with that, the young Lupes bounded off in different directions.
“Hey!” Altodar shouted. Timu stopped and turned around. She giggled, then dropped into a playful stance.
“So what are you waiting for?” she asked playfully. Altodar noticed that her voice wasn’t heavily accented like the others. “Come and get me!”
Altodar leaped towards the Timu, only to find that she had run off in the other direction. Shaking his head in mild frustration, Altodar took off in pursuit.
But Timu was fast, as were the others. No matter how hard he ran, Altodar couldn’t catch up to any of them. Soon he was out of breath and losing speed.
Blaze stopped, looking at Altodar in confusion. “What’s tha matta? Ya tired already?”
Altodar nodded, panting.
Blaze chuckled. “Ya barely even ran!”
Scooter and Liza joined Blaze in front of Altodar. “You is definitely a city Lupe!” Liza scoffed.
“I think you were wrong about this un, Blaze. He don’t have what it takes,” Scooter shook his head.
Altodar stared at them in shock. They had barely given him a chance!
“Come on, guys. Give him one more chance. He’s just not used to running, that’s all,” Timu protested, stepping between Altodar and the others. Altodar sighed. Timu would let him play.
“Well... alright. We do need a goalkeepa for Yooyuball,” Blaze agreed skeptically. Then, turning to Altodar he added, “But if ya can’t do that, we don’t want nothin ta do with ya.”
Altodar nodded enthusiastically. “I’ll try my best!”
On their way to the practice Yooyuball field, Timu explained the game to Altodar.
“There are five members on every team: two offenders, two defenders, and one goalie. The object of the game is to get the Yooyu into the other team’s goal. Since we don’t have enough players for two teams, we play with only one goal. Two offenders try to get past the defenders and score.”
“What position do you play?” Altodar asked curiously.
“I’m the best defender there is,” she told him proudly. “Someday, I hope to play on Team Altador. Just think of how amazing it must be to be a part of the Altador Cup...”
Altodar was just about to ask about the Altador Cup when they arrived at the field. A wooden ball was lying next to a makeshift goal.
“We don’t got any of them fancy Yooyus, but we got somethin even better,” Blaze announced. He tossed the wooden ball into the air. “This baby’s solid wood, and she never veers off course or nothin.”
Altodar nodded absent-mindedly. He didn’t really care about the ball; he just wanted to prove that he was just as good as the rest of them.
Scooter nudged Altodar towards the goal. “You’re gonna be tha goalkeepa. All ya got to do is catch that there ball before it hits tha net. Simple.”
Altodar positioned himself in front of the goal while the others took their places on the field.
“On ya marks, get set... GO!” Blaze yelled, running forward with the ball. Altodar watched in fascination as Blaze expertly avoided Scooter and passed to Liza. But out of nowhere came Timu, who stole the ball from Liza. She moved forward on the field, heading for the line that determined if the defenders won or not.
She was just about to pass the line when Blaze catapulted himself into Timu, recovering the ball. Altodar gasped. Was his friend hurt?
Altodar was so focused on Timu that he didn’t even notice when Blaze powerfully sent the ball towards the goal. It whizzed past Altodar, hitting the net with amazing force.
“What in the name of the King were ya thinkin?!” Scooter yelled, scowling at Altodar. Altodar flinched.
“S-sorry,” he stuttered. “I guess I wasn’t paying attention...”
“Of course ya weren’t,” Blaze muttered crossly. “Alright, everyone, let’s try this again.”
Altodar tried, he really did. But every time the ball would shoot straight past him and into the goal. After the sixth time this happened, even Timu was getting flustered.
“That’s it!” Blaze roared. “If ya can’t even catch the ball, ya can’t play with us!”
“But Blaze,” Timu stepped forward, trying once again to defend Altodar.
“He’s no good at anythin!” Scooter interrupted. Liza joined in by saying, “Good for nothin city folk, that’s what he is!”
Altodar turned and ran, unable to bear the scorn much longer. Tears streamed down his face, and he hoped that no one had seen them. It was bad enough that they teased him for not being a good athlete.
When Altodar reached home, he went straight to his room. There, a small collection of books from his old home awaited him. Wanting to escape the hurtful words of the other Lupes, he picked one up and delved into the world of paper and print.
Altodar looked up. The voice was coming from his window. He cautiously walked over to it, wondering if the others had followed him to bully him at his own house.
Timu was standing outside his window. “Altodar! Are you okay?” she asked.
Altodar narrowed his eyes. Had she come to tease him too? “Of course I’m okay,” he growled. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Timu stepped back, startled by his tone of voice. “Well, they were pounding you pretty hard back there...”
“Just because I’m no good at playing games doesn’t mean you have to come over here and rub it in!” Altodar yelled at her. In his mind he knew that he was being cruel, but he couldn’t seem to stop the words coming out of his mouth. “Who needs you anyways? I can have plenty of fun on my own.”
“Altodar...” Timu whispered, taken aback by his harsh words.
“I don’t ever want to see you or your friends again!”
To be continued...
I'd like to thank my wonderful pets, Prince_Altodar and Blewby88, for their inspiration and unwavering support. :)