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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 14th day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 109 > Short Stories > A Uni-que Discovery

A Uni-que Discovery

by nurluen

A small white Uni peered at the dying sun with an expression of mixed fear and apprehension. Tarselene* hadn’t seen her herd since morning, and evening was on its way. Not much longer, and she would be abandoned in the Haunted Woods at night.

     A twig broke behind her, and the Uni whirled, her silvery mane flying, and searched the shadows for signs of an attacker. There was no movement, but it took several moments for her heart to stop pounding.

     Tarselene sighed. What if it had been a Lupe? She pounded the fallen leaves on the ground hard with her hoof in anger. It was the Lupes’ fault that she was alone, for they had chased the herd that morning, and it had been during the chase that she’d become separated. And now, the Lupes would be after her, the straggler.

     Warily, she continued onward, trying to smell the air for traces of her family, and staring hard at the windblown earth for footprints, but her efforts yielded little. She would have to stop soon and rest, but she wanted to find a sheltered area first.

     Soon the young Uni began to grow weary. The darkness was complete, and clouds smothered the moon and stars. Tears of despair began to well up in Tarselene’s eyes, for she saw no hope ahead. The woods would not end for miles. Exhausted, the little white Uni fell to her knees upon the cold ground.

     After crying silently for a few minutes, Tarselene pricked her ears. The forest had no sounds. The night insects had fallen quiet, and nocturnal animals did not stir. The Uni knew that the unnatural silence meant danger.

     Then she head soft footsteps ahead, coming toward her. In an instant, she was on her feet, frozen, for she recognized the sound of the footsteps. They were that of a Lupe.

     Before Tarselene could even turn to run, the Lupe was before her. It was gray, the color of shadows, with luminous yellow eyes. The Uni began to back slowly away, but then she turned to see that she was surrounded by the rest of the pack. They all watched her silently, with their eyes flashing brightly, and hungrily, she thought.

     She would have neighed loudly, or reared up, but her throat was glued shut and her legs leaden. Tarselene knew that she had no chance of escape.

     The gray Lupe stepped forward. “What’s the matter?” he asked in a surprisingly soft voice.

     After a few moments of fighting, Tarselene finally won the battle of control over her voice. “You…are going to eat me,” she whispered.

     The Lupe laughed. “Eat you? Why? What is a skinny little Uni compared to a nice, juicy cheeseburger, eh?”

     Tarselene gulped. “I don’t believe you,” she croaked. “You dirty Lupes chased my herd this morning. Don’t lie. You are going to eat me, so just get it over with!” Amazed at her own bravery, the Uni then fell silent.

     The Lupe’s brow wrinkled, and he looked almost as surprised as Tarselene felt. “I am not lying,” he remarked softly. “My pack does not lie, nor do we hunt Unis. I don’t know what other Lupes do, little Uni, but perhaps it is wise to consider that not all Neopets of any species are the same. There are good and bad in any group. Assuming otherwise is wrong.”

     Tarselene could not reply. She looked around at the faces around her, and noticed that they did not look as hostile as she had imagined. Some even looked sympathetic. She glanced back to the gray Lupe. “My name is Tarselene,” she offered.

     A broad grin split the Lupe’s face. “And I am Ralsadan*, leader of this pack.” He gave a friendly bow. “We saw you here, alone, and thought that you might be in danger. We came to offer our help.”

     Tarselene returned Ralsadan’s smile. “Thank you,” she whispered, finding it difficult to speak, but this time her voice was not lost because of fear. Finally she added, “I am sorry for thinking you were…like the others. You aren’t.”

     Ralsadan nodded. “No, I’m not, Tarselene, and I am glad you gave me the chance to prove it. Now rest, and tomorrow we will see that you are escorted back to your herd.”

* * * * *

The Lupes were true to their word. They fearlessly guarded Tarselene all night, taking turns so that there were always several Lupes on guard. After a few minutes, the Uni curled into a small white ball and drifted to sleep among the dead leaves.

     When she woke, she found Ralsadan regarding her with his steady yellow eyes. “You must have been tired,” he muttered, “You slept for hours past dawn.”

     “Sorry!” cried Tarselene, not wanting to give the helpful Lupes any inconvenience.

     Ralsadan smiled. “It is nothing. Now, why don’t you eat, and then we can leave?”

     The Uni nodded fervently, eager to see her herd again. She nibbled greedily at the grasses around her, surprised at how hungry she was. The Lupes waited for her to finish with calm patience.

     Finally, Tarselene had eaten her fill. “I’m ready,” she said.

     Together, Ralsadan along with several handpicked Lupes put their keen noses to the ground to track the scent of the herd. They found it far more quickly than the little Uni would have been able to, and followed it at a rapid and steady pace.

     They traveled all morning and into the afternoon, stopping only briefly for rests. While they were traveling, the Lupes made sure that Tarselene was keeping up, and was not feeling too tired. She marveled at how they genuinely cared for her when other Lupes had attacked her herd so recently. It was amazing how different the two groups were.

     Finally, the herd came into view, a large number of Unis placidly grazing in a lush valley. Tarselene’s heart leapt at seeing her family and friends again. She turned to offer a final thank-you to Ralsadan, but the Lupe had disappeared so as not to frighten the herd.

     Tarselene paused one moment at the edge of the woods, thinking about her discovery, and how the herd would react when she told the tale. They probably wouldn’t even believe her after remembering how the Lupes had chased them the other morning.

     But that didn’t matter, Tarselene knew. What others thought was never as important as the truth that she knew. It is not the species or the race, but the individual that makes the person.

     With that, the little white Uni lifted her head, and trotted off to rejoin her waiting herd.

     They were amazed to see her. Tarselene’s mother raced over at a full gallop, crying, “Tarselene! You’re alive! How did you ever escape the Haunted Woods?”

     Tarselene grinned, and nuzzled her mother affectionately. “It was really scary, at first,” she admitted, “but then a Lupe came—”

     Her mother whinnied in shock. “A Lupe! Tarselene, did it bite you? Are you hurt? My, my, I cannot believe that you survived!”

     The little Uni sighed. How was she to explain? “The Lupe and his herd saved me, Mother. They protected me all night, and led me to you. I would have been lost without them.”

     “Lost without them?” parroted her mother in disbelief. “You were lost because of them! The filthy Lupes are the reason we were separated in the first place. You know that.”

     “But it wasn’t those Lupes, Mother, they were…different Lupes. All Lupes are not the same.”

     Her mother considered this. “Perhaps you are right,” she admitted eventually. “It never occurred to me that some might be different. I always thought that they were all vicious, savage brutes out to bully harmless Neopets. But I guess this proves that I cannot make assumptions or stereotypes without there being exceptions.” She suddenly broke out into a grin. “We should thank them.”

     Tarselene’s heart swelled with joy. Her mother understood! “We most certainly should!” she agreed enthusiastically.

     After a long talk with the herd leader, the Unis finally agreed to thank the valiant Lupes that had saved little Tarselene. They walked back into the woods (on a bright, sunny morning, of course) and eventually found the Lupe pack. Ralsadan was most honored that they would seek him out and thank him, and glad that they no longer thought so poorly of all Lupes just because of the actions of a few.

     The Unis left the Haunted Woods that evening bringing something with them not tangible, but of a greater value than any physical item. They left with an entire new outlook on Neopia and its creatures. No longer did they see the world through the eyes of the ignorant, where blanket statements sufficed to categorize everything, but now viewed life with the enlightened eyes that could see each individual for what it was, and see what each had to offer. With their new tolerance they learned things they would never have known, and experienced joys that would have been closed to them, and all because a few individuals decided to make a difference.

The End

* Note: The characters in this story were created by Nurluen, and not based upon any existing Neopets Users or Pets.

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