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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.