Not many people knew this, but there was always a bit of an extra-secret rivalry between Darigan Citadel and Faerieland during the Altador Cup. A lot of people believe this to be because of their completely opposite natures: the Faeries being all light-hearted and sweet, while the Darigans were rather tricky and evil-hearted. Still, some also believed it was because of their – well, former – positions in the skies above Neopia.
However, after the incident involving the defect wizard Xandra and the crashing of Faerieland to the ground, it seemed that the rivalry between the two teams had intensified further now that Darigan Citadel had taken its sweet spot in the sky and Faerieland had nuzzled a new home on land. There was no shortage of comments between the two teams backstage – some often finding their ways into the stands thanks to those few backstage pass holders that overheard them – and help provide some of the most intense games of the season on the field, much to the happiness to many of the teams' most devoted fanbase.
Of course, when the final standings came out – Darigan Citadel reaching seventh place and Faerieland at fifteenth place – it left much opening for gloating and hateful comments from the more victorious team, which is where our story takes place...
* * * * *
Delma Harrence slammed closed the door to her temporary locker, having cleared out her uniforms and gear and packed up her bag now that the games for the year had come to a close. The Closing Ceremonies had recently ended, meaning that the audience was likely still trying to vacate the Colosseum and make their returns home, so she was likely going to stick around the backstage area for awhile to avoid some of the crowds. While Delma did enjoy being with the fans, she wanted a smooth trip home even more than that.
"Hey Delma. I see you're sticking around too, huh?"
The Faerie Zafara turned around at the sound of her name being called, then smiled to see that it was one of her teammates, Faerieland's best (and only) goalie Valtonous Rea. "Hey Val. Yeah, I am. I really don't want to join the clogged up skies, y'know? With everyone trying to leave at once, it'd be too crazy out there," Delma explained, laughter in her voice.
The Faerie Uni agreed, "True. Ciona's already headed out, so she's probably seeing that first-hand right now. I have no idea where Captain Kakoni or Elbin are at, but then again, I'm not about to go into the guys' locker room to find out either."
"The Captain's probably talking with the officials about next year's games. After all, we only get a couple weeks of rest before we have to start training again."
"Yeah, true. Anyway, wanna head down the Slushie Shop before they close down for the season? I'm sure they still have something left for those waiting to go home."
Delma nodded; she hadn't had a chance to go to Altador's infamous Slushie Shop this year, and of course didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to go before she headed home. Grabbing her duffel bag from the floor, she followed Valtonous out of the locker room, the two ladies chatting and laughing about this and that along the way.
"Well well, what do we have here? A couple of fallen Faeries?"
Delma froze mid-sentence at that cocky voice. She knew that voice; she absolutely HATED that voice. Valtonous sighed in her own irritation, glaring at its source, "Oi. What do you want, Tandrak?"
Standing in front of the door for the Slushie Shop was Darigan Citadel's Tandrak Shaye, a Darigan Gelert that, despite his increasing ability to get injured on the field, was one of the team's best players. However, because of this fact, he developed a large chip on his shoulder and made sure to prove it to everyone he could, in particular to the members of Faerieland. Delma often became a source of his commentary, as she often fought back just as much with him despite her team's efforts to calm her before the Yooyuball field became a warzone.
Tandrak smirked, canine teeth showing as he did with arms crossed over his shoulders, "I would've thought that you two would've flown off with your wings between your legs in shame by now, placing so low as you did again."
"We're not leaving yet because we don't want to get involved with all of the crowds. We just want to get some slushies and enjoy some time off," the Uni explained as calmly as she could, eyes darting back and forth between the smirking Gelert and her angry teammate.
"You know, I've been hearing the fans talking. They had some high hopes for you guys. Saying that you guys were going to have some sort of glorious come back after the fall from Faerieland to prove you are still so high and mighty," he continued, then let out a mock sigh as he shrugged his shoulders, "To come in fifteenth place must have disappointed a lot of them."
Delma growled low in her throat, "You..."
"Delma, relax. Tandrak, if you're done, we'd like to get our drinks and go, please. Despite what YOU may think, we did our best and that's what counts," Valtonous stated, nudging Delma with her hoof past him and into the shop.
Still, the Gelert continued, "I guess you're just going to accept that you're never going to be number one, right... Delma? Never in the clouds, nor on the land?"
Delma snapped, turning around and grabbing at Tandrak's collar despite her friend's urging to keep her from doing so. "Be quiet! What do you even know about us!? You keep acting like you're so great, but you're not! So Darigan Citadel has the skies and Yooyuball; so what? What else do you have that we don't? Quit acting like you're so superior when you're nowhere near!" she screamed, her anger at full boil.
For a moment, the Gelert was surprised – he wasn't expecting the usually demure Zafara to get right up into his face and lash out, her outbusts usually contained at a distance thanks to being held back by her teammates. Even Valtonous stood back in shock, not able to find the ability to get herself involved and pull Delma off of Tandrak before something more violent happened.
Then Tandrak chuckled, placing a paw on Delma's and removed her grip from his collar, "Gotta admit, you can be pretty crazy for a Faerie. Tell you what. I'll make you a bet for next year's games, Delma."
Delma tilted her head curiously, her eyes filled with skepticism over the prospect. After all, what good could come from a bet with a member of Darigan Citadel? "What kind of bet?" she asked cautiously, crossing her arms over her chest in a mock gesture to his previous stance.
"Next year, when our teams face off, defeat us in Yooyuball, in both robins. Prove to us on the field that you haven't lost your touch just because you've fallen from the clouds. If you can do that, I'll publicly apologize to your team for my comments, and end this rivalry of us once and for all," he said seriously.
"...And if we don't?"
"Then our rivalry continues, and you'll have to buy slushies for our team after the Closing Ceremonies next year. Don't worry, I'll be kind enough to allow only myself to insult you."
Delma growled again, and not liking the odds either – she knew full well that when it came to Yooyuball, Faerieland have always done poorly against Darigan Citadel, whether or not they were in the clouds not being the issue. However, as she glared at her rival with her anger still boiling and ignoring Valtonous' anxious stare, Delma could feel something urging her to accept it. Perhaps the instinct to win? She hadn't a clue; she could only sigh as she hesitatingly stretched out her arm.
"Fine, I'll take you up on your bet."
Tandrak smirked again, gripped her paw with his own, "Excellent. Then, I'm looking forward to seeing how well your team improves for next year. I say it'll be interesting."
The Zafara didn't say a word, allowing her arm to drop as the Gelert released her paw and turned to make his exit, getting exactly what he was looking for from his rival. Then he stopped and looked over his shoulder. "By the way, Delma, I hear that the Lost Desert is a great place for training," he stated.
The two Faeries stared at him curiously, wanting to question him for his comment, but didn't get a chance to before he took to the skies, likely heading back for Darigan Citadel.
"Oi... I'll never understand that guy, or really anyone on his team," Valtonous stated, shaking her head, "And you, why did you take him up on his bet? You know we're best with the side games more so than Yooyuball unless we're facing off against some of the lower rank teams. All you did was get yourself into more of an irritating situation. Captain Kakoni isn't going to be happy with this."
"Hey Val... do you think Captain would be all for a team road trip?"
The Uni stared incredibly at Delma, surprised to hear that she was actually considering the last-second advice from Tandrak. Delma had a finger to her chin, a thoughtful look to her face.
"Every since we fell to Neopia, we haven't had a chance to explore the land. Perhaps we should, and practice on all sorts of terrain. Maybe that's what gives Darigan Citadel an advantage, and that's why they're so good at Yooyuball. They know how to work the field; they've practice on all of it. Think about it; what do we know about land when we've practiced on clouds?" Delma questioned.
Valtonous thought about it for a second, running through the scenario in her mind for a moment, then smiled, her eyes brightening up, "Y'know...I've never been to the Lost Desert either. I'd like to see it at least once."
Delma laughed at her teammate's sudden change of heart, "Let's grab our slushies, and then find the Captain. After all, we have a lot of places to visit, and only a year to go!"