A Waffle Paradise Circulation: 175,957,962 Issue: 353 | 1st day of Hiding, Y10
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Dasher Soley's Final Flight: Part One


by doopingla

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Stars aren’t always born and they aren’t always made. The stars in space have to be in alignment before Neopia can receive another star, a star that the land will raise until it knows its full potential. The stars in space must be shining just right for someone to become a super star, known across Neopia as someone great. The cosmic balance determines who is destined to be a star, and who will find that they can be one.

      There are many stars across Neopia; each land has them. Altador has King Altador and Jerdana, Faerieland has Fyora and Jhudora, the Haunted Woods has Edna and the Brain Tree, Krawk Island has Captain Threelegs, the Lost Desert has Tomos and Nabile, Mystery Island, Jake the Explorer and the Techo Master, Roo Island, Count Von Roo, Terror Mountain, Taelia the Snow Faerie. Everyone has its heroes, its stars. They were all either born or created.

     When you think of a star, you think of something great. Almost everyone wants to be a star, but not many have the potential of being a star. Stars can be different things, too. The star of a great war, a great evil star, anything you could imagine. Then there are the stars of Yooyuball and its teams. The game everyone knows about, the game that millions of people play and enjoy.

      Then there are the teams of Yooyuball itself, great teams that have proven themselves worthy of being called stars. Teams that have won the Cup, or came ever so close to getting it, or even moved up from last place, they’re all stars.

      Then there’s Dasher Soley.

      ***

      The place was deserted, all but for two figures, two figures who both were troubled. Who both loved the Altador Cup. A Krawk sat on a small wooden stool, staring into his chokato slushie, not very hungry. He stirred it with his straw, watching the blended ice and chokato swirl around in a small whirlpool. A red Tuskaninny watched him, concerned. Her familiar customer usually wolfed down his favorite slushie.

      Business had died down hours ago, the scores of the day being tallied; people were too busy watching the standings board anxiously to notice that the slushie stand still had one more customer, a customer everyone knew. The Krawk eventually pushed the slushie away, grumbling something about his team.

      Dasher Soley looked up at the Tuskaninny staring at him, frowning at his untouched slushie. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to drink anything. It’s just, my team...” His voice trailed away, and he stared glumly at the sparkling clean counter, where slushies were usually flying and spraying in the customer’s faces.

      “It’s quite all right. What’s wrong with your team?” the Tuskaninny asked, taking the slushie back and pouring its contents back into the chokato slushie making blender. Dasher shrugged, said nothing, stared down at the floor. Raised his arms up in an ‘it’s neither here nor there’ fashion.

      “Worried about the Cup?” the Tuskaninny asked knowingly, sitting down at the counter and cocking her head slightly, waiting for her favorite customer to answer.

      “They don’t think we’ll do well, they’ve been down ever since we got fourth place in last year’s Cup,” Dasher said gloomily, laying his chin in his arms and sighing, shaking his head slowly back and forth.

      “I just don’t know what to do, what to say to them that will get them to play their hearts out no matter what.”

      “Oh, I’m sure you’ll think of something,” the Tuskaninny said. “I have faith in you, and your team. Krawk Island will take the Cup this year with you leading its team on.”

      “Since it’s my final year, I want it to be our best,” Dasher said, closing his eyes briefly. A small smile crossed his face and the Tuskaninny waitress knew he was thinking about winning the Cup.

      “Don’t worry, I know you’ll pull through this year,” she said with a small smile. “Stars are born, and they are made. You were born a star, and you keep shining brighter every time I watch you play.” And with that, she left the slushie stand to get a good night’s rest, for the next day the stand would be filled with angry, slushie craving customers.

      Dasher got up, walking out of the stand and closing the door. He looked up at the night sky as he walked, lines of worry etched on his young face. The stars shone, and for once he questioned the meaning of the word star that everyone described him as. He was nothing like those stars. He remembered the words of the Tuskaninny, and he believed it. A star was a person who shone.

      ***

      “All right, team, it’s our first match of the year; we can take them,” Dasher was saying to his team on the morning of the first match. He looked around at every one of his team members, boring into them, saying all he needed with one look.

      “I know we came in fourth last year, so it’s time to step it up,” he continued. “As you know, this is my final year as your captain. I expect nothing less than first place, now let’s get out there and show them that we’re ready for vengeance.”

      The rest of his team nodded, and they all stood. Garven Hale cleared his throat, and everyone turned to him. Looking at his old friend, Dasher realized just how old he was. He knew what the Bori was about to say before he opened his mouth. He knew what also would take place the end of this year.

      “I suppose you also know, then, that it’s about my time to leave this team as well. You’ll have two new members next year to play, and I expect you to treat them as well as you’ve all treated me. Thank you, for everything. It’s been a real pleasure to be your goalie.”

      A sea of clapping echoed throughout the small tent that the Krawk Island team sat in. As they exited the tent, a sea of even louder clapping and cheering raised the sun a bit higher, made the clouds part, caused an earthquake of noise. Beaming, Dasher led his team out onto the field to meet their opponents.

      They shook hands and nodded to each other before backing off, smiling at each other in a way that meant both of them intended to swab the deck with the other. It was amazing. Dasher nodded at his team, who grinned back at him. Everyone was ready for this match, and Dasher should have known it all along. They wouldn’t let him down.

      ***

      Inside the slushie stand, the Tuskaninny waitress flung slushies across the counter to the pets that entered, catching their cups. Business was booming, as usual, and the Tuskaninny had to keep on her toes, or the customers would start leaving, she would drop their cups and generally everything would become chaos in the small slushie stand.

      After slinging some slushies to everyone, while waiting for them to drink them, she peeked out the window at Dasher and his team. They were waiting, ready for the whistle to blow, their eyes firing daggers at the other team, who in turn were waiting for the whistle. The Tuskaninny waitress bit her lip, hoping that he would do well.

      She stared out the window at the fans, at the people by Make Some Noise, screaming until their eyes bulged, at the crazed Techo fan who was dancing around like a Mynci during a game of Mynci Beach Volleyball. She stared at the scorekeeping Techo, at the commentators who appeared ready to criticize the team for getting dirt on themselves. Her eyes surveyed the scene outside, and she, for the first time, imagined herself as part of the team, flinging the ball at the goal instead of slushies at deranged fans.

      Then came a loud snort, and the Tuskaninny was back to slinging slushies across the room, catching cups and generally coping with the rowdiness of her stall. She faintly heard the whistle, like the screech of a startled Weewoo, and knew that the Krawk Island team would be playing their hearts out.

      But it was only a slushie that she flung, and her dreams of being on a Yooyuball team like Krawk Island faded away. This was where she belonged, right here at this slushie stand.

      ***

      Dasher readied himself as the ball came flying his way. They were only a few seconds into the game, and he was already hurtling toward the other goalkeeper. Two of his teammates flanked him, Ealyn and Nitri. They blocked their opponent’s team members as Dasher shot toward the goal.

      The Yooyuball soared, its brown shell shining in the sun that shown down on the court. The goalkeeper dove for the Yooyuball and just barely managed to grab it before it could get into the goal. Getting up, the goalkeeper threw the ball hard toward one of his team members. It was caught by Zayle, who passed it to Ealyn, who raced forward and sent the ball speeding toward Dasher, the closest to the goal.

      Readying himself, the opposing goalkeeper waited for Dasher to shoot. Dasher turned toward one edge of the goal and the goalkeeper in turn moved that way. With a turn of the heel, the ball was sent speeding toward the opposite edge. The goalie dove for the Yooyuball and crashed into the ground as the Petpet flew into the net behind him. It uncurled and proceeded to dance around, to the cheers of the crowd.

      Dasher shoved his fist into the air to celebrate the first success of the match as the score was changed by a Techo wearing Altador style clothing. The two teams then raced back to their starting positions and watched as the next Yooyu, a Fire one, hopped up from a hole in the ground. The hole closed behind it, and the chase for the Yooyuball began.

      Dasher Soley dove for the Yooyuball and caught it, hopping back out of the other team’s reach and hopping about, heading toward the goal. Something huge smashed into him, however, and the ball went soaring out of arm’s reach, to be caught by one of the opposing team members.

      The Krawk got up quickly and soared toward the opposing team member who had the ball, but Ealyn was already hopping into the team member. He snatched the ball from the burly team member’s grip and Dasher readied himself by the goal net. Ealyn leapt out of the way of another humongous team member of the opposing team.

      He gritted his teeth, and sent the ball sailing toward Dasher Soley, who dove for it. The goalie lunged forward as well, followed by almost everyone in the stands. One of the opposing team’s members dove for the Krawk as he lunged, and the people in the stands were crawling over each other to get a better look.

      The people over by the Make Some Noise area were screaming harder than ever, lunging forward almost into the pit to get a glimpse of the action. The Tuskaninny in the slushie stand heard the screams, and her customers froze. They dove for the exit, and the waitress looked out the window, clinging to the sill to see what was happening.

      Dasher Soley seemed to dive in slow motion for the ball, and the Yooyuball in turn seemed slowed in the action of the crowd. His hand reached out to grip the Yooyuball, and the fan’s screams grew louder and louder, ringing in the team captain’s ears.

      His hand grabbed it, and he rolled out of the way of the opposing member of the team. He leapt to his feet, nearly tripping over himself, and snapped the ball from his hands with a sound like a whip cracking in midair. The fans’ hearts stopped, and they watched the ball zoom toward the goal.

      The clock calmly ticked away.

To be continued...

 
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