From the Side
The first wave sent out by the six factions surrounded the Obelisk. First, the Pilferers were going against the Insiders, the Warlocks against the Brutes, and the Scientists against the Mummies. Then it was the Pilferers against the Warlocks, the Insiders against the Scientists, and the Brutes against the Mummies. Then it changed again, and periodically kept changing like some strange sort of line dance. It was mesmerizing to watch, everyone running into and bouncing off each other; it was just the sort of sight it was hard to avert your eyes from.
Perhaps down there, to the "soldiers," it was all organized, but from where we were, it just seemed like chaos.
It was from a safe distance we watched, my sister, our owner, and I. It was the cusp of one of the many canyons that streaked through the Tyrannian Plateau. We were just sitting on one of the rocks, high enough for a decent view through a few pairs of binoculars, but low enough that falling wasn't too much of a danger.
My sister has a habit, I guess you could call it, of having a different outfit for every season. Despite it being the hot and humid Tyrannia, admittedly at near-sunset, she seemed just fine in her bundled-up winter "Spirit of the Terror Mountain Mists" ensemble. Granted, I might not have been one to talk given how I've taken to always wearing a sweater, but the scarf just felt like she should be broiling in there. Maybe the ice wings and parasol were offsetting it.
We had come to Tyrannia initially on our standard omelette run. The Times and the news on Neovision had kept us relatively up-to-date on the discovery of the Mysterious Obelisk (as the press had labeled it) and the amassing forces of all the secretive societies of Neopia suddenly coming out of the woodwork and no longer completely caring about secrecy. It was only on the day of our arrival that we could hear the ruckus in the distance; while we were on route, the war had begun. No doubt that thousands of pets had brought out their best weapons and armor and joined in the fray.
Not us, however.
It's because of our owner, for the most part. He didn't want us to get involved in the fight. Not that there wasn't a side he didn't support; from what was presented in the news, he seemed to agree most with the views of the Seekers, that the first thing to do was that the Obelisk should be studied and documented thoroughly to find out exactly what it actually meant, what it actually did, and what information it provided on Neopian history. The fact that they were likely one of the the least "secret" of the "secret societies" that had come after it helped, even if their existence wasn't as public-knowledge as others. Second on his moral-support list was the Thieves Guild, though I suspect it's mostly because he still has a decent opinion of their leader Kanrik from those events on Terror Mountain all those years ago. He was neutral toward the Order, not particularly caring so much about their efforts; he had a bit of interest in Neopia's magic, but to him their motivations seemed outclassed by comparison and they probably would've been better off if they decided to just work with the Seekers to thoroughly investigate the massive pillar together. The brawny nature of the Brute Squad was never his style, the secretive nature of the Sway just seemed to infuriate him, and of the Awakening he held the opinion that they just came plumb out of nowhere for the sole purpose of making a bad situation worse.
However, he had not officially enlisted his pets - us, I mean - into any camp. He was generally a non-violent sort of fellow, our owner. Though I suppose the better term would be non-confrontational. He just wanted to get through life without too much trouble. Any day where he felt safe in his routine was a good day. He generally kept away from the Battledome; the only time we were involved in a fight, my sister was taking on the Neggbreaker. A secure home to sleep in every night, three meals a day, and no major surprises that he couldn't live with. It wasn't the most exciting of lifestyles, but it was a stable one, and we were all happy with it.
We weren't sitting there, on that rock, watching a war through binoculars, because he enjoyed the fighting. Neither did my sister and I, being the peaceful Kacheeks we were. He was watching out of curiosity, and we were watching because he was. It seemed like just a mess of noise to us, to my sister and I, but for some reason he found the mess of noise fascinating. Even with the binoculars, we couldn't make out any detail; the only thing telling which body was part of which army was their colors (why so many societies had so many similar-looking members, I'll never figure out). It was a kaleidoscope of chaos that showed no signs of stopping anytime soon. I think he was curious to see just what pattern of color it would take next, and then what happened after that, to try to see if there might be an overall pattern that would allow him to predict what would happen later.
He's like that, I suppose. He has taken interest in the strangest of things many times in the past. For example, at the last few Halloween Faires, he took an interest in Saskia. My sister and I found her creepy and somewhat suspicious even for the Woods, and didn't want anything to do with her; he found her alluring and intriguing, and was more than happy to go on her trick or treat quests through Neopia. During the time of ruin when all the faeries were turned to stone and Faerieland crashed into the continent, we were shocked and horrified by what Xandra had done... except for him, who figured she might have gotten more than a few things right and even made of point of getting his picture taken posing by her petrified form. And I would rather not get started on Vira. He isn't malicious or evil or anything, he just... thinks differently.
He made one thing perfectly clear as we watched, however. "We are not looking down on them," he said. "More than likely, they are better folks than us, because they all in some way have the will to fight for their cause. Meanwhile, we're just watching from the side, waiting to see the results that others bring. We who WATCH are in no position to be looking down on those who DO."
I wanted to ask, "So why don't we just go there, stop watching, and start doing?" but I already knew the answer to that.
To be honest, I think I have my owner figured out. Given I had been his first pet, and for many years his only one, I would have to be blind to not have. We don't live the way we do because he values high order; he's too creative-minded for that, sketching up and jotting down notes about the worlds he's grown and developed in his head. No, he does it because he wants to keep my sister and I safe. That one battle I mentioned earlier? He knew that she was equipped with the amulet to protect her against the Neggbreaker's immense power, and when she was done, he fussed over the wounds that had gotten through the protective charm. Whenever one of us got sick or hurt, he'd rush us immediately to the Healing Springs, and if a few attempts didn't cure us, he'd spend plenty of the money he saved for the cure in whatever shop he could find. One time my sister was zapped by Boochi, and immediately he was in a frenzy to find a Yellow Paint Brush to get her back to normal as quickly as he could.
We wouldn't be out here all night. The sun was disappearing and on the Plateau that meant a significant temperature drop. There were hints of a second wave of stronger fighters arriving on the horizon, just as it seemed the vigor of the first was waning. Our original plan to return to Neopia Central on the sea ferry that we came in on was busted, as that left hours ago; the new one was to stay at a nearby inn for the night and catch another ferry back in the morning.
Eventually, our owner declared it was time to turn in for the night. We got off the rock and started our walk away from the Obelisk and the war, back to a place of relative peace. Along the way, we couldn't help but discuss how it would all turn out.
"SC?" my sister asked.
"What do you think is REALLY in the Obelisk?"
"Something... interesting. Something no one will see coming. Probably another gargantuan creature with a scary name; there's a pattern to this. Such a thing would probably be something a few of the factions would seek out to control... and others to destroy. And personally? I hope there's also the history the Seekers are searching for. It's always nice to see Neopia run a little deeper."
"Do you think there's actually a cake in there?"
He chuckled. "No way. Even if there was, it'd be all rotted away. You'd have to be undead to be able to-"
He suddenly stopped walking at that moment, and it took a few more of our own before we noticed and stopped.
"...That would explain it," he said in realization before continuing.
We kept walking for several more minutes before I decided to try asking mine. "Hey SC, what do you think's gonna happen?"
"You mean besides there being at least one winner and most likely five or less losers?"
"I highly suspect Tyrannia will change."
"Much like how Krawk Island did recently. I doubt it's going to break apart into pieces and drift into the sea, but... it'll change. Somehow. Some will probably complain, but they'll get used to it eventually."
"I thought that was the idea," my sister replied. "A land locked in time, a land that never changed."
"Everything changes, Novashine," our owner replied. "For better or for worse, nothing can stay the same forever. Even the ground of Neopia itself is constantly changing; it's just happening too slow for us to see it. ...Most of the time. It's just... Tyrannia's turn, I suppose."
"Sometimes I wish we could find some way to help one of them..." I mentioned. "The Seekers, most likely."
"We've been over this," he said, exasperated. "There aren't any puzzles in this war, and none of us - neither of you - are experienced enough to fight. No matter which side we'd take, all we'd do is weigh them down. It's better for all of them if we just watch. There are hundreds more qualified pets standing with the Seekers, and they will do what we can't."
I recall him using a similar line for nearly every Altador Cup, never choosing a team or even paying much attention to the event. I had figured it came from the Brains vs Brawn Games Master Challenge; he had enlisted with Abigail, but made minimal contributions to his team's efforts, and so when she lost he took it fairly personally. He skipped over the Pirates vs Ninja challenge the following year.
My sister decided to ask the big question, just as we were reaching the general boundary of Tyrannian civilization. "SC... Are we the only ones watching from the side?"
He was silent for a few moments before giving an answer. "...No, we're not the only ones. I've never met any, but... I'm fairly sure there are others who watch, because they aren't qualified to do. Or perhaps they just don't want to get involved. Or they just don't believe it's as important as the news makes it out to be and believe it doesn't affect them."
"Doesn't it?" I asked.
He gave a chuckle as we walked down the stone road we had met. "Well, we'll just have to watch and see, won't we?"