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We All Had Each Other: Part Three


by tiger_kitty7788

--------

And so, Zephyr found himself charging up the most deserted streets he could find, feeling as if he was flying and wishing that he could. But his wings, weakened by various ailments early in his life, would never bear him.

      Terr had not come with him. Somehow, that hurt. But, his friend had been good enough to warn him. How much more could he expect? Especially from a friend who was likely very disappointed in him.

      Where was he going? He had not thought that far ahead. Meridell was not really an option. Sky diving was not an area of his expertise.

      In other words, he would likely end up landing very hard upon some sort of unforgiving surface.

      Normally, his escape runs didn't last very long. And he was noticing the difference, the warm fatigue that built in his four pumping limbs.

      Just had to make it away.

      But, on the Citadel, there was no 'away.' Nowhere to hide that wouldn't be found sooner or later.

      But, then, how did Kiyle get himself down to acquire another load of merchandise? There had to be a way.

      "Stop!"

      The call made his heart skip a beat, and thus trip over the next.

      That voice... it was not Terr, calling him back for something important that he had forgotten. It was a low, gruff, chilling voice. An angry command.

      With no time to look back, Zephyr headed straight towards the first place that came to mind - the edge of the Citadel.

      It was no longer a pleasant sight to sit and watch. It was thousands of feet of empty space, suspended between him and the only possible escape method.

      "We have him now!"

      Oh, no, they didn't. 'Shadow-Paw' would never give up.

      With a pathetic whimper for help, he braced all four limbs and launched himself from the rough rock of the Citadel.

     ***

      Zephyr had lost his mind. That was clear enough to Terr, who watched from the safety of the shadows.

      He shouldn't have informed his friend of what was about to happen. Perhaps, if he hadn't, Zephyr would have been merely incarcerated. But now...

      Now, there was no hope that he could see.

     ***

      Zephyr felt like some sort of bird, floating rather rapidly down towards the Meridell landscape, which grew steadily larger beneath him.

      Stupid move. Very stupid move. He clenched his eyes shut, braced for impact...

      And smelled something.

      An instant after he smelled the something, he was smacking into it. It was wet. It was squishy. It was smelly. It was... garbage?

      With that bit of confusing information still echoing through his head, Zephyr lost consciousness.

     ***

      "Ugh... "

      At first, all Zephyr was aware of was that one side of him ached. And then, there was the pungent something, filling his mouth and nostrils.

      With a muffled yelp of disgust, the Gelert pulled himself free of a towering heap of rubbish, sneezing and coughing and trying desperately to clean his tongue with one paw. This, of course, did not work, as that paw was just as slime-covered as the tongue.

      But he was alive! He had leapt from the Citadel, with no means of slowing his fall, and all the hurt he had to show for it came in the form of a dull side-pain and a truly ghastly taste filling his mouth and throat.

      Shadow-Paw lived on.

      And now regret blossomed to the surface.

      What was it he had promised himself? One time. Just this once. And it had destroyed his life. He was alone, he was hungry, and now he didn't even have home to comfort him. He didn't have Ed.

      A dazed, downhearted Darigan Gelert, covered in brown slime, trudged off to find somewhere to wash up.

     ***

      Darigan tried to slow the pounding in his chest, pushing away each blaming thought that presented itself in his mind.

      He had just received the news.

      Several of the guards he had sent out that morning had cornered the young Gelert. 'Dashing sort of rogue, gleam in his eye.'

      And, in a desperate moment, the boy had leapt to certain doom, thousands of feet below.

      It had been his choice, of course. The thief had chosen to jump.

      If that was the truth, then why did Darigan feel so hopelessly guilty?

      Perhaps it was because he remembered the fear, the hope, the longing in the eyes of a little Neopet who had only wanted something to eat.

      He would grieve. But he would do it in private.

      And then, he would have to get on with his life.

     ***

      Thud!

      Zephyr lifted another fair-sized rock, and threw it with all the force he could muster between two of the lush Meridellian trees.

      Truly, this was a beautiful land. Green and blue. Everything was green and blue and gold. He likely stuck out just like a Meridellian would have, up on the Darigan Citadel.

      It seemed that he would be forced to do just what a good number of his childhood friends and enemies had done. Start fresh, somewhere new. Have a real life.

      Shadow-Paw had vanished from the Citadel.

      With a low heart, yet with lingering hopes, Zephyr set off towards a clipped field of golden wheat.

     ***

      The next week was the longest of Zephyr's young life. And the most frustrating. No matter where he went, it seemed to be 'eek! It's a Darigani! Bring me the broom, George! Don't let it touch the good floors!'

      Peace that would last a thousand years, eh? Well, perhaps the Meridellian clocks were a little fast.

      Or perhaps he hadn't fully washed himself of the sickening smell of rotting vegetables and aged gravy.

      At last, he found himself stumbling towards the Meridell castle. Wet, muddy, utterly pathetic. At least he was hardly recognizable as a Darigan Gelert. Looked more like a living mud pie.

      And then a voice made him jump.

      "Ooh... who are you?"

      Zephyr whipped about to face the source of the voice. He had wandered in front of a large barn, and, standing there before him, was a small Usul with orange hair and a kind look in her eyes.

      He considered his name. He considered his nickname. And then he gave up.

      "No one important."

      The diminutive Usul only giggled.

      "Of course you're someone important. I'm Sally. And this is the barn where I kept Mr. Scary."

      Well... Zephyr had never heard that little story before. Probably some figment of the girl's imagination.

      "I'll bet you're really hungry, whoever you are. I'm going to have supper soon. I could bring you some potatoes and some corn. Do you like corn?"

      The bemused Gelert only nodded. This 'Sally' was kinder than the whole fleet of Meridell citizens he had met over the course of the last seven days.

      Thus, he found himself sitting in the sweet-smelling straw of the big barn, awaiting the return of Sally. It wasn't like he had anything better to do. Besides, she had promised food.

      And, sure enough, it wasn't long before she was back.

      "Mr. Muddy! I brought you some potatoes!"

      Mr. Muddy? Oh, well. Mr. Scary, Mr. Muddy. At least it wasn't 'eek!' He had gotten a lot of that one lately.

      And the warm scent of food had already floated to his keen nose, practically sending him flying towards the Usul, the plate, and the food that was carried.

      Never mind the fact that his eating habits looked much like those of a feral Puppyblew. Never mind that some of the gravy likely ended up traveling through his nose.

      His stomach was full again.

      And so was his heart.

     ***

      Over the next few weeks, Sally would bring at least half of her supper to 'Mr. Muddy,' which she called him even after learning his true name.

      Skin and fur that had hung loose over bony shoulders soon rippled with hard muscle, as he exercised in the safety of the barn. The glint returned to his eyes, the vigor to his movements. Then there was the ultimate wonder. Oh, joy, the strength began to return to his wings. Within the safety of the barn, he was flying.

      And he had a new friend.

      "I hope you stay here a long time, Mr. Muddy."

      "I hope so as well, Sally."

      But it wasn't meant to be.

     ***

      Zephyr was loping along on one of his short walks, breathing in the fresh, peculiar farmland air, when something caught his eye.

      A simple parchment poster, nailed to one of the young, lonely trees.

      As his eyes flicked over it, his mouth slowly slid open.

     ***

      He did not look forward to telling Sally. But it had to be done.

      A pang of guilt and regret shot through his side when he smelled the familiar gravy and potatoes, heard that familiar voice.

      "Mr. Muddy! I brought you some supper!"

      Zephyr was not as eager as he usually was to reach the plate. This time, he trudged over, keeping his gaze upon the ground.

      "Mr. Muddy... is something wrong? You look so sad."

      How could he do this to her?

      Taking in a deep, shuddering breath, he let it all come out. His Yooyuball dreams. His brief era of thieving. The poster he had found.

      "The Darigan Citadel is building its own team. This is my chance to live what I always wished I could."

      Zephyr's voice began to crack here.

      "I don't want to hurt you, Sally. You're one of the best friends I've ever had."

      Sally was sniffling, wiping away a large tear that threatened to fall.

      "I understand, Mr. Muddy. I always wanted to be a whinny rider. But my heart hurts now."

      Tears stung at his own eyes now, and Zephyr moved forward to embrace Sally, who shuddered and snuffled in his arms.

      "I'll never forget your kindness, Sally."

     ***

      The time had come. For nearly a month, that barn had been home to him. Now he stood outside its wide doors, preparing for his final goodbye. One of his lean, red paws rested gently upon Sally's thin shoulder.

      "I promise to come back, Sally. Someday."

      Open tears soaked her brownish fur, dripping from her little chin.

      "I'll miss you, Mr. Muddy."

      And, for what would likely be the last time, his arms were around her.

      "I love you, Sally."

      "I love you, too... Zephyr."

     ***

      It wasn't long after that, four days after the try-outs, when Zephyr learned of his honor - a place among the five players of the Darigan Citadel Yooyuball team.

      A new name - he needed a new name. Something to separate himself from the pain of his old life. The life that had cost him nearly everything. After all, this was to be a fresh start.

      Sitting alone, breathing in the freshness of the air, he made his choice.

      "Tandrak. Tandrak Shaye."

     ***

      Tandrak slammed heavily against his Maraquan opponent, scooping up the ball to charge down the field. None could keep up as he dodged and wove, sending the Mutant Yooyu hurtling into the goal of the opposing team.

      And the crowd went wild.

      Normally, he would nod to acknowledge this end-of-the-game praise and head for the side door.

      But not now. His eye had caught upon a very familiar figure seated in the front row, waving wildly at him.

      "Sally?"

      And so, this time was different. Now, Tandrak Shaye wove a path through fans who screamed his name, stopping to embrace one little Usul who had always believed in him.

      "You came."

      There was a sparkle in Sally's eyes as she nuzzled against his uniform.

      "I heard that you were doing so well. And I wanted to come and see you play."

      Ignoring the wild congratulations and gleeful shouts around him, Tandrak knelt at Sally's level.

      "I never did thank you."

      Sally looked straight back into his eyes, with a solemnity that seemed to ignore age.

      "And I didn't get to thank you. For telling the truth. There's nothing better than the truth."

      The truth. As Tandrak lifted her high in his arms, another decision was made.

     ***

      It was hard. Harder than anything he had done before.

      Tandrak Shaye took another deep breath, and pushed open the door to Darigan's temporary lodgings near the stadium. As such a player, he had rated a few minutes alone with the Citadel ruler. It would be all that he needed.

      "My lord. There is something I need to tell you."

The End

 
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» We All Had Each Other: Part One
» We All Had Each Other: Part Two



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