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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 23rd day of Swimming, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 134 > Short Stories > Never Apart

Never Apart

by neo_star_queen

Author's Note: This is a sister story of The Court Dancer's Deal. You don't have to read that one to understand this one though, because they are separate stories, just with a few of the same characters. This story takes place 2 years before the other one.

The blistering sun hung high in the air, sending waves of heat down over the Meridellians. The drought would surely last for days, and the crop was already doing miserably. But the drought problem was trivial compared to what else was in store for the tiny villages of Meridell that day.

     One blue Chia farmer dashed down the beaten path, his shovel lying forgotten on the ground. He gasped and wheezed for air, trying to run faster on his tiny, wobbly legs. He had to go faster… he had to warn Meridell of what was coming…

     The farmer tried to scream out, but he couldn't. It was taking all of his energy just to keep running, to escape what was chasing him…

     The tiny village was in sight now, and the farmer could see the villagers walking about, doing their daily business… and the farmer could hear them coming closer, they were gaining on him… it was now or never…

     Draining up his last little remaining bit of energy, the Chia opened his mouth and screamed out as loud as he could, "SPYDERS!" Then he collapsed on the ground. He hoped they would understand his warning. He had fallen, and he would be the Spyder's first victim now… but he had delivered the message. "Good luck, Meridell," he whispered, as the clicking noises advanced on him and his eyelids drooped shut.

     Down in the village, chaos erupted. The first of the giant Spyders had appeared on the hilltop. Villagers screamed and shrieked, running every which way. They yelled to others still in their huts, tried to save belongings… but for most, there was only one thought on their mind: escape.

     Tiyani the sixteen-year-old starry Zafara hadn't heard the farmer call. She looked up, in the middle of shopping for groceries in the market. She turned to ask the shopkeeper what was going on, but he was already fleeing, running over the hills with a small group.

     Tiyani blinked in surprise, but she tensed, narrowing her eyes as she looked at the mass of screaming pets around her. She leaped gracefully up onto the fruit stall, her emerald green cloak waving gently behind her. She dropped her shopping basket as her eyes widened in fear. Tens of giant Spyders were now crawling steadily down the hill, clicking eerily, their shiny red eyes glinting maliciously. They had nearly reached the village!

     Tiyani jumped off the stall and joined a throng of pets now swarming towards the village gates, which were bolted shut. But the Zafara broke off of the group when she reached a small brick hut beside the well.

     "Rhina!" she screamed, throwing the door open. "Spyders in the city!"

     A six-year-old red Kacheek was sitting by the hall, looking guiltily up at Tiyani. The Zafara picked him up quickly and huffed, "Drensin, where's Rhina? And Emock!"

     "Tiyani!" called an eleven-year-old purple Ixi, dashing into the room. On her back sat a baby green Acara, giggling playfully. "What's going on?" asked the Ixi. "I heard screaming, people are saying-"

    "Rhina, Spyders are invading the village," choked Tiyani, "we need to get out of here!"

    The Zafara turned around as she heard clicking outside her door. Rushing around the tiny 2-room hut, she quickly closed all the windows. But she could hear the Spyders outside…

    "They're here!" squeaked Rhina the Ixi, her face paling. "Tiy, what are we gonna do?"

    Tiyani cast a fretful glance around the hut, and her eyes landed on one still-open window, just large enough for the young Ixi to squeeze through.

    Grabbing Rhina by the scruff of the neck, Tiyani dragged the Ixi over to the window and pointed through.

    "But I can't--" started Rhina frightfully.

    "Just go!" hissed Tiyani, bending down to offer the Ixi a boost. Rhina clambered onto Tiyania's paws and through the window.

    "Take your brothers," Tiyani instructed anxiously, thrusting the Kacheek through the window despite his protests. She pushed the baby Acara through the window as well. "Go over the South hills, and stay there! Wait for me, and if I'm not there by nightfall and you think the Spyders are gone, come back into the village!

    "What about you?" asked Rhina, hoisting the two younger pet's onto her back. "Will you-?"

    "Just go!" yelled Tiyani, waving her paws at them. Rhina opened her mouth again, but Tiyani screamed, "Run!" and the Ixi turned around and took off down the meadow.

    Tiyani spun around as Spyders began to slam against the door loudly. Hastening over to a corner of the room, she wrenched out one of the floorboards and bit her lip as she found what she was looking for. An Illusens Blade. The blade was shiny as if it had been recently polished, although Tiyani hadn't touched it for three years. She ran her paw gently over the smooth green handle and closed her eyes, remembering the last time she'd used it, three long years ago…

    She came out of her daydream when a Spyder pounded against the doorway and the lock snapped off. They'd be swarming in any minute now… She grabbed the sword and swung it high over her head, spreading her feet apart. No matter how many Spyders came through that doorway… she'd take them all.

    The door burst open and six Spyders flung themselves inside at once, many more on their heels. They opened their wide mouths, revealing rows of sharp teeth.

    Tiyani managed to fit a loud cry of, "For Meridell!" in before she rushed at the Spyders, her Illusens Blade glinting in the sun like the Spyder's red eyes.

***

Far away from the village, over many hills and too distant from her sister to hear her battle cry, Rhina collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath. She'd run non-stop from the village, and now she was too tired to continue.

    Drensin hopped off her back, sat down, and burst into tears. "I'm hungry!" he screamed as loud as his little Kacheek voice would let him. "I want to go home!"

    "Shhh!" said Rhina wearily, clapping a hoof over the Kacheek's mouth. "We can't go home yet!" She pointed to a bush behind them. "Go pick some berries."

    Drensin sniffed and rubbed tears from his eyes. "Where's Tiy?"

    "I don't know," sighed Rhina, looking back over the rolling hills. "We'll have to wait and see."

    Suddenly, the baby Acara began to cry as well, tears streaming down his green face.

    "Emock's hungry too," sniffled Drensin. "I'll pick berries." Then, the Kacheek lay down and went to sleep.

    Rhina rolled the Kacheek over to Emock, so that the two might be a little warmer. Dejectedly, she stood up and went to pick berries. If Tiyani was here, Rhina would have flopped down beside Drensin and gone right to sleep. But I'm in charge now, thought Rhina. Tiy and the others are depending on me.

    After Rhina had picked all the berries off the bush, fed Emock and Drensin and sung them to sleep, she crumpled onto the ground, even more tired than before. How many times had she told Tiyani she was going to do something, and then forgotten it? How many times had she refused to do what her older sister wanted? We were all too hard on her, thought Rhina sadly. I was the second oldest. I should have helped her. But I complained as much as Drensin. And I always relied on her to do everything, never even thinking for myself. She had to raise us all on her own, without any help… she's only 16. She tried her best, but it was too much for her. Our constant whining was too much for her.

    Realizing that she had to tell Tiyani that she was sorry, Rhina's head snapped up, and she stood up and lifted her brothers onto her back with newfound energy. The sun was starting to set, and the Spyders seemed to have left the village and gone on to the next one.

    "Where are we going?" asked Drensin sleepily, rubbing an eye.

    "We're going to find Tiyani!" shouted Rhina in reply, racing down the hillside, her hooves flying as she went.

***

Rhina hadn't known what to expect when she re-entered the village. She was only eleven, after all, and she hadn't seen many battles. But whatever she had expected, it certainly wasn't this.

    Spyders and villagers alike lay strewn across a gory battlefield, which had died hours ago. Houses were either broken or breaking, with holes in their roofs and shattered doors and windows. Once faithful weapons lay beside their owners, now never to be used by them again.

    Rhina carefully stepped over the bodies on the ground until something silver caught her eye; she hopped over a dead Spyder and nudged a notched Illusens Blade, resting peacefully by itself. Why did it look familiar?

    Noticing a very hastily scrawled note lying beside the sword, she picked it up and read it quietly to herself.

    Take the sword, whatever remains inside the house and your brothers. Leave. Find a new life in a new village. When you read this, I'll be gone. I will always love you. Tiy.

    Drensin's voice broke the silence. "Where's Tiy?"

    Smiling weakly, Rhina raised one hoof upwards. Drensin seemed confused for a minute, and then his mouth started to twitch, and tears welled up in his eyes. "No…"

    Rhina felt the ears coming, but she held them back. Tiyani had never cried. She'd always consoled the others, soothing them and telling them it was alright. That was what Rhina was supposed to do. But she couldn't. She wished that Tiy was there, that anyone was there, so that she could cry on their shoulder like always… but now she was in charge. And she felt like the weight of Neopia was resting on her shoulders, pushing her down.

    There was too much responsibility. She couldn't comfort the others; it was too hard when she felt like crying as well. She wished she could.

    "It'll be okay," whispered Rhina, her voice shaking. Feeling that if she said another word, she would cry, the Ixi turned away from her brothers and rested one hoof on the sword's hilt.

    She turned her face up to the vast, never-ending skies and whispered, "I'm sorry. You were so good to me… I'm sorry I was not."

    "Come on," she said heavily to her brothers. "We have to go to a new village now."

    "What about Tiy?" whispered Drensin. Rhina picked up Emock and smiled.

    "What about her?" asked Rhina. "She's right here beside us. She never truly left." Feeling a flicker of hope light up inside her, Rhina continued, "She'll watch over us, and give us strength. Come on. Let's go now."

    Emock made a loud popping noise from where he sat on her back and giggled. Rhina smiled, and nudged Drensin on too. "I'll protect you now," she said softly. "And I will never let anything happen to you."

    "I know," said Drensin, huddled on her back. "It's just… I miss Tiy…"

    "So do I," said Rhina quietly. She looked out onto the wrecked village for one last time, and then she turned and carried her brothers off towards their new life.

The End

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