Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 90,555,864 Issue: 166 | 12th day of Storing, Y6
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Freedom and Glory: Part Two

by laurelinden


"Now!" cried Jairen, and they were off. The green Shoyru pulled forward, panting and straining as his heels dug into the earth, leaving spurts of dust behind him as he ran. All summer long he had practiced running, waking early each morning to jog in the coolness before the dawn, and staying up late to run by moonlight. Eight weeks of training, and only now did he dare run against Raife in a race.

     The shadow Lupe was better than he was in everything they did, it seemed. He was lovely to look at, with sleek muscles rippling beneath a glossy pitch-black coat, and piercing amber eyes which could invoke anything from joy to knee-trembling fear by a casual glance. A swifter runner and more able warrior, the Lupe had even competed in the tournament held at the end of summer last year, and won second place overall. Sometimes Jairen didn't know why one such as Raife would befriend him. He had never done anything glorious.

     But now was his chance, his opportunity to prove himself. His greatest wish was to beat Raife at anything, even once, just to show himself that he could do it, and feel more justified that the admirable Lupe would call him a friend. If he could win this race, he would know forever that he was worthy.

     The finish line was in sight. Biting his lip in determination, the Shoyru leaned forward, craning toward it with all of his weight and speed. His wings pressed tightly against his body to lessen wind resistance, and his arms pumped with each step. He was so close. The checkered string beckoned him, he could see himself stepping over it, winning, it was right there

     Raife loped past him in three easy strides, and turned his head to grin at his friend as he crossed the finish line. "I win."

     "I know." The Shoyru sighed heavily, and a surge of frustration rose inside him. "I worked all summer, Raife, all summer. And you just beat me again."

     "Well, it might comfort you to know that I had to work slightly harder at it that time," replied the Lupe, still grinning. But when he saw the look that Jairen gave him, he dropped his playful tone. "I'm sorry, Jay. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings… but we are how we are, right? So why stress out about it?" He winked, and lunged at his friend, beginning a wrestling match.

     It took the Lupe only moments to pin the Shoyru to the ground. "Still friends?" he asked, his amber eyes sparkling.

     Jairen laughed, and shoved Raife off him. "Yeah. Still friends."

     "Come on, then!" was the brisk reply as the shadow Lupe ran along the deep golden path of light made by the setting sun. It seemed to Jairen as if his friend could outpace it, if he wanted to; run right past the sun and into the next day. But then the Shoyru smiled and joined Raife in the run. Perhaps he could as well, if he really tried.


     Miles away from the two, the young Uni named Aloriel was sitting on a hilltop, watching the same sun set. So beautiful it was, she thought to herself, staining the sky and clouds and grasses with light of purple and pink, and behind her was the deep blue outline of coming dusk. It was the first sunset she'd seen since her escape from the Pound, ending her first day of freedom, and she'd loved every moment from the one the Lupe had chosen to release her to the moment that was at hand.

     She rose to her feet, stretching out her wings, testing the slight breeze. It seemed as if she could do anything in that moment of perfection; simply wish it true and true it would become. Certainly, then, she could fly.

     Aloriel began to prance forward slowly, arching her neck as she broke into a hastened trot. Her hooves were a blur beneath her as she sped up into a canter, and then she began to gallop beneath the friendly gaze of the sleepy sun. Neighing her joy, she stretched out her wings to their full extent, feeling the wind rush past her. It seemed to lift her, and her pounding feet hit more lightly as her heart skipped a beat. Was she doing it? Was she taking off?

     "That's it!" said a voice, and the Uni was shocked to see a Christmas Zafara soaring in beside her. Her amazement was so great that she didn't notice that her feet had left the ground until after a moment had passed.

     She shot a wonder-filled glance at the Zafara as she flew, causing him to laugh. "It's not so hard, is it?" he asked, then urged, "Go higher."

     Pumping her wings powerfully down, she watched the slope of the hill fall below her. Faster and faster she flapped them, and with each movement they directed her and spurred her on. The earth was a sprawling mass of green and black shadow beneath her, and even the tops of the trees were within her grasp. /I can touch anything/, she thought in exhilaration as she realized that she was doing it; she was flying at last.

     It seemed hours that she lingered in the sky, relishing the cool winds tickling her nose and tossing her silvery mane in the currents of the air. She was a part of the sky; her and the clouds and the disappearing sun.

     The stars were peeking out from behind the veil of night as the Uni and Zafara finally landed upon the hill, returning to the earth. Aloriel's face was flushed with joy as she smiled at her new friend. "Thank you so much," she said earnestly. "I have always wished to fly."

     "So must we all, if we have wings," replied the Zafara. "My name, might I add, is Terou, and I too can remember looking up into the sky and wishing to be caught in its winds."

     "You can?" asked the Uni. "You were not always Christmas painted, then?"

     Terou shook his head. "No, I used to be blue, like you. But my owner was kind enough to buy me the paint brush that I most wished to have. She let my paint myself, and thus grow these marvelous wings."

     "It must be wonderful, to have such a caring owner," said Aloriel dreamily. "One who would spend all of that money just to make you happy."

     "Have you a bad owner?" The Zafara sounded concerned.

     "Not even that," replied Aloriel softly. "I have no owner at all."

     Terou's eyes filled with sadness. "I'm sorry. You weren't abandoned, were you?"

     "No… not that I remember, anyway." The Uni's brows furrowed as she racked her brain, reaching out to her earliest memories. "It seems as if I was always in the Pound."

     "We will change that," stated the Zafara firmly. "I will not leave your side until you are owned by someone who cares."

     Smiling sadly, Aloriel shook her head. "No, I'm afraid it's useless. Who would want a Neopet like me? I am not painted, or especially strong, or outstandingly intelligent, or even beautiful. I am just an ordinary Uni, with none of the traits which everyone so loves."

     To her surprise, Terou shook his head. "You give up too easily," he scolded mildly. "Believe in yourself, little Uni. I know a way that ensures you to be noticed by someone."

     "How?" Aloriel's eyes lit with hope. Dare she believe that she could have an owner?

     "Come with me." Without further word, her new friend took to the air, hovering just above the ground. The Uni reared up and leapt into the air, spreading her wings to propel the air beneath her. She followed the swift form of her friend, whose white fur was glowing silver in the pale light of stars and moon, making him seem a beacon of hope.

     They landed several moments later outside of a log house. "Wait here," said Terou. When he opened the door, the Uni could see that the inside it was cheerfully lit, and she heard a soft voice greeting the Zafara. He emerged moments later with a scroll rolled beneath his arm.

     "Look at this." He unrolled it slowly, and held it in the light streaming through the windows of the house. Peering at it closely, Aloriel saw that it was a registration form of some kind.

     "What is it?" she asked.

     "Fill in this form, and you will be entered in the upcoming tournament," explained Terou eagerly. "Win it, and you will be noticed for sure! This, my friend, is your ticket to fame." He brought out a small pad of ink for her signature. "This, Aloriel, is your ticket to happiness."

     Pausing only to smile in sincerest gratitude, the Uni dipped her hoof in the ink and made a mark upon the tournament paper. Win a tournament, and have an owner at last. It seemed too good to be true… almost.

     Anything was possible on this lovely night. She was free; she had flown… could she not now have an owner as well?

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Freedom and Glory: Part One
» Freedom and Glory: Part Three
» Freedom and Glory: Part Four

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