The Curse: A Story of Altadorian Spirit
The sun was beginning to sink beneath the city walls, casting a warm glow onto the dirt field. A massive Elephante, armored in glittering gold, stood at ready. His fiery eyes were locked on the target as he hunched over, feet planted, hands steady and aching to make the grab. Several yards away, a mass of bodies struggled viciously. Within the chaos, there seemed to be some sort of strategic arrangement, but as more dust was kicked up by frantic feet, the order within the mob became hazy. Bodies weaved in and out of the clutter as the brawl came closer. A Lupe came into view on the Elephante’s left. She seemed to be blocking the path of an orange Chia. On his right, a Gelert broke free of the battle and raised his arm high.
“Here!” he cried. From the center of the struggle, the Elephante could make out the small, but strong build of a Poogle. The Poogle, with a fierce gleam in his eyes, bared a row of sharp teeth, and with all his might flung a flaming object over the heads of their enemies. The Gelert readied himself for the catch, but just as he was about to receive the article, another Chia leaped from the crowd and intercepted.
“Get ‘im!” growled the Poogle.
Another Neopet came seemingly from the shadows on Elephante’s left, a dark-coated Wocky. The Chia charged forth and threw the object straight for the Elephante. It flew so quickly, with a tail of fire that matched that of a speeding comet, that it slipped by the Wocky, who dove and landed on the ground in a cloud of dust. The Elephante dove too, but he was too late; the ball of fire passed over his head and plunged into the netting behind him.
And that was the end of it.
Quietly, the mob dispersed, the Chias hustling to their end while the remaining dragged their feet through the dirt toward the other. From the netting, the ball rolled across the field, stopped at the heel of the Lupe, and unraveled itself, revealing a bright smile and excited eyes set at the center of a seven-pointed star. Sighing, the Lupe scooped the Yooyu into her arms and gazed up into the faces of her fellow teammates.
“Come on, guys,” she began. Her voice was soft and edged with sadness, but encouraging all the same. It was a motherly sort of voice, one you would expect to come from such a feminine, pink face. “We still have a few hours ‘til sunset; we can get this right.”
But the Poogle wasn’t having it. He gave a fierce growl and flung his mitts onto the ground.
“Get this right? We’ve had a thousand years to get this right!”
“Remis,” the grey Wocky stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder, but the Poogle shrugged him off and threw his sling down as well. “Remis, there is no need for a short temper-“
“No need?” Remis repeated incredulously, “Just look at us! We’ve been practicing all off-season! The games start tomorrow, and we still can’t even beat this gathering of gelatinous fools!”
The team looked over their shoulders at the other end of the field. There the Jelly Chias were, happily bouncing about, enjoying yet another victory without a care in the world. They had nothing to lose by these games; they were only there for practice. But every one of the pets gathered about Remis, draped patriotically in orange and yellow and with elegant laurels on their heads, had so much on the line. They went silent.
After a moment, Remis growled again and turned his head away. “We are Altador,” he stated, enunciating each word to a greater effect. “We cannot allow our performance to damage our good name.”
“Then we must continue!” Timu, still cradling the Yooyu in her arms, spoke up. “We’ll train harder, keep trying all through the night, and come tomorrow-“
“Come tomorrow we’ll make fools of ourselves yet again!” Remis interrupted. Timu shrank back. The Yooyu paused, glanced over at the green Poogle, and wrapped itself into a ball once more. Remis scowled, took a breath, and continued less harshly, though his voice still held the same solemn intensity. “You’ve all read the articles, heard the broadcasts. They’re laughing at us. They mock us. They don’t expect us to place above 14th!”
His crew exchanged looked, but didn’t dare to speak. Turning away, he continued.
“I’ve lead you through years of torturous competition. We have fought, and defended, and played with all our hearts, but to no avail. All our efforts... for naught...” He stopped then, and sighed. Met with nothing but silence from his fellow teammates, he shook his head. “I cannot stand by and watch our good name and the name of our city go to shame.”
Suddenly, there was an uproar. The crew went into a state of confusion. “What do you mean by this, Remis?” Winberto Seliz, the Wocky, stepped forward, almost intimidating in manner. His fiery eyes were lit with agitation, but the Poogle did not back down.
“I mean to say,” he snapped back, “I’ve had enough. These games are not worth the trouble they bring, and I am through!”
Again, the team was thrown into disorder. Everyone seemed to want to speak at once.
“This is crazy talk! Preposterous!” boomed the deep voice of the Elephante, who puffed out his massive chest with indignation.
“But you are our Captain,” said Lyvon Cibaire, the Gelert. “We cannot play without a captain!”
Timu continued to chirp, “All it takes is tenacity! If we pull together, we’ll pull through!”
Everyone but Seliz seemed to want a say. They continued their quibbling until the tension had grown so dense in the air that each felt suddenly burdened by it and were forced to stop. Only then did they notice how intensely Seliz stared into the eyes of their beloved captain, and how bitterly Remis glared in return. Once the silence finally set in, Seliz spoke. His voice was low, and it trembled with the seriousness of the matter at hand. He had no empathy, but only severity.
“We Altadorians are not quitters.”
Remis returned with the same tone, but his not quite so restrained. “We Altadorians are noble and valiant. We have proven we can persevere through a thousand-year curse-“ here, he pulled his yellow and orange sash off and let it fall onto the floor, “- and we have a name to uphold. It is our duty to preserve our nation’s reputation at any cost... Even if it means surrender...” The whole crew watched their captain, defeated but unbending, lift his laurels, and then let it drop onto the dirt field. They were left speechless. Only Timu gasped.
As Remis turned to leave, Lyvon made an attempt to step in the way. For a Gelert, he was well-built. His broad shoulders and golden curls gave him the look of a hero, but he was defenseless against the will of his more-experienced teammates.
“Let him go,” Seliz commanded, and the Gelert, with but a moment of hesitation, stepped out of the way. Remis left the arena without further resistance. His friends gravely let him leave.
After a somber moment of silence, the Elephante, Salayne, lowered his head and closed his eyes. “Our friend is lost...”
“What are we going to do?” Timu asked. This was the question on everyone’s mind. They all looked toward their strongest member for the answer.
Seliz turned and faced his crew. It was evident by the look in all of their eyes that he was now regarded as their new leader. Solemnly, he murmured, “We’ll do all we can. We’ll get some rest, and prepare for tomorrow’s grand event...”
Beyond the walls of the arena, Remis marched on. He had no plan as for where he would go; he simply followed the path on which his feet led him. Through the great city he trekked, passing between the rows of neatly-trimmed hedges, skimming past beautiful gardens over glittering streams. To either of his sides, elegant houses towered, monuments to the splendor of the unbreakable Altadorian spirit. Eventually, he came upon a great building planted at the heart of the city. Its looming shadow stretched over a great deal of the town as the sun began to shift closer and closer to the horizon. It was here Remis stopped, and he knew fate was calling him inside. This was the Hall of Heroes.
The inside of the building was dimly lit. The rays of sunset shimmered in through the windows and cast their eerie glow upon the twelve stately statues in the center of the room. Foremost among these stood the great King Altador himself. Remis shuffled humbly up to the monument. How heroically it stood above him; there the face of the majestic King, with all his tools- a sword and a bow- at hand, gazed intelligently into space. Toward the future, perhaps? He was so inspiring, even as a statue, yet the plaque beneath it seemed oddly unfitting. “This is the statue of King Altador, the Hunter.” It didn’t give him quite the recognition he deserved. He was, after all, basically the driving force behind all of Altador.
“Huh... the Hunter,” Remis mused aloud. He gazed up into the face of the towering king, “It’s funny. They call me Trapper. It’s nearly one in the same.”
“Quit yappin’ to yerself,” a harsh voice suddenly shot from behind him, causing him to snap from his thoughts. Remis swung around and noticed for the first time that he was not alone. There stood an orange Yurble. He had on an angry scowl, and in his hands were a bucket and a mop.
“Sorry,” Remis grumbled, “I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone...”
But the Yurble seemed completely disinterested in his excuses. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. Feeling quite disrespected, Remis began to lose his temper once more.
“Do you know who I am?” he pressed, but again, the Yurble shot him down.
“YOU are some crazy person who tracked dirt all onto my beautiful floor!”
Remis looked down at his boots and realized he had left with some of the field still on his soles.
“Oh, sorry, I-”
“Can it!” the janitor snapped. He sloshed the mop around in the bucket and threw it back onto the ground as he began to clean up the mess. “Do you know how hard it is to do my job around here?” Remis opened his mouth to speak, but the janitor growled and did not allow him the chance. Rhetorical question, obviously. “Here I am, all day, all night, sweepin’ and moppin’ up after everyone and everything that decides to drag their filthy paws in here, and for what? So that it stays clean for three seconds, and then gets filthy all over again! I work hard, darn it! I’ve put hours into my job, and I get nowhere!”
Again, Remis wanted to interject, but the Yurble swept the mop across the floor continued without hearing any of it. “Argh, it’s so frustrating! Do I get a thanks? No, not a single one! But you know what? Even though I am underappreciated and underpaid, I keep at it. Every day, every night. And you know why? BECAUSE, without me, this place would be in shambles. It would fall apart! Mud would be tracked up to the ceiling. Without me, this place couldn’t run, because I am the only thing keeping it together!”
The janitor was obviously upset, so Remis gave up entirely on trying to talk to him. The Yurble carried on the conversation by himself, though he lowered his voice to an unintelligible grumble. Meanwhile, Remis turned back to the statue. The lighting had changed significantly, as the sun was nearly gone. It was getting dark in the building, yet... Suddenly, Remis was feeling oddly inspired. Perhaps it was the dramatic effects of the shadows across the great King’s face, or perhaps it was because the janitors rantings had become inaudible, but the Poogle suddenly felt he knew what he needed to do...
The next morning was one filled with excitement. Every seat in the arena was sold out. The stadium was filled to the brim with ecstatic fans, cheering and raising foam fingers and jumping about in sheer anxiety. Everyone was feeling the excitement... except Team Altador. Behind the gates in the side of the arena, the broken team of four stood. They were gathered about solemnly, trying to ignore their rising anxieties. They had come fully clothed in their team’s gear, but... there was little spirit among any of them.
“At least we gave it our best and made an appearance,” Lyvon muttered gloomily.
“We aren’t a team without our full five,” Salayne grumbled in return. Timu stepped between the two and put her finger to her lips to silence them. She motioned with a nod over her shoulder toward Seliz, who stood alone by the entrance. He was staring out into the arena as the announcer stepped into the center podium and greeted the crowd. Seliz didn’t say a word at first. All that was heard was the cheering of the fans and the booming voice of the announcer. After the initial speech, the announcer introduced the hosting team and stepped aside, and the cheering resumed at its fullest. The gates slid open. That was when Seliz turned to the other three and said so gravely that it broke their hearts, “It’s time to step out there...”
The four marched in a single line onto the arena. They were immediately met with the screaming of fans. A whole section of their supporters stood and waved about their Altadorian flags, with banners that read “Altador FTW” and “Brighter than a thousand suns!” and “The Terrible Trapper.” But “Trapper” Remis wasn’t there with them. It didn’t take too long for the crowd to realize someone was missing, and the stadium soon went quiet. Seliz took center stage on the podium. Some fans screamed out his name, but fell silent soon after. Pausing for a moment, Seliz bent his head, and then looked up earnestly into the crowd.
“Good morning,” he began. More screams, and then a hush. “It is... my great displeasure to announce that we, Altador, will not be competing in this year’s Altador Cup.” Suddenly, panic broke out in the stands. It began as whispers, but soon escalated into boos and disappointed howls. The three behind him hung their heads in shame, but Seliz stood his ground. He continued, trying to speak above the crowd. “An unfortunate occurrence has fallen upon us, and as you can see-”
Suddenly, the crowd roared. Not in outrage, but... with cheers. They were screaming and whistling as they had before, all in joy. The team of four exchanged confused glances. Seliz looked about, and out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a green figure marching proudly up to the stage: Remis.
The crew’s faces immediately lit up as their captain joined them, and they accepted him with open arms.
“You came back!” Timu cried.
“Thank Altador,” Lyvon breathed, while Salayne swelled with pride and boomed, “I never knew Remis to be a quitter.”
The Poogle took his place beside the Wocky. He beamed, his sharp teeth gleaming, and the Wocky gave a modest smile in reply. “You returned?” he murmured questioningly. Remis nodded once, and his grin faded into something more humble.
“We Altadorians are noble and valiant,” he explained, “We have already proven we can persevere through one thousand-year curse... and besides, we have a name to uphold.”
Seliz smirked and put a firm hand on his friend’s shoulder. “It’s good to have you back.”
Together, the two turned to face their adoring supporters, who cried out in their name. Remis raised his sling and announced to the crowd, “Altador will play! And this year, we will not disappoint!” Seliz shouted out in accordance, raising his sling above his head as well. And the other three followed his lead, with the crowd jumping to their feet, the stadium overflowing with mirth.
And so began the season. Once again, Altador stood together, proud and tall, ready to take on the curse that has befallen them. Even today, as they battle it out with their seventeen competitors, they fight side by side. They may not always fare well, but they are fair and they always persevere, because when it comes to a challenge, Altador will not disappoint.