The Great Race: Part Seven
Altador and Shenkuu
“Walls! Civilization! I was never so happy to see it!” Sirenia sighed.
Kanuah looked up at the white walls that surrounded Altador. “It does look nice.”
Luke sighed and looked back at the desert. “I liked the des...”
The three other pets glared at him. “I like Altador.”
Ankhele touched the side of the gate as they walked through. “Here's where we part ways.”
Sirenia took off at a dead run. “No need to waste time with long good byes!” she yelled.
Kanuah ran after her as he yelled good bye over his shoulder. He didn't have to bother; the other team was running to their checkpoint.
“Hey, Kanuah, where's the checkpoint?” Sirenia asked over her shoulder.
“Next to Magic Marvels.” Kanuah pulled out his now ragged list of checkpoints. “This is the last one.”
“Oh! Look at that fountain!”
“Very pretty. Oh, Sirenia?”
Sirenia looked over at her brother. “Yeah?”
“Don't touch anything. With all of the passage ways, tunnels and such, we don't need another 'short cut'.”
“You got it.”
“Well, let's go get it over with.”
“You guys made it safely across the desert! But I'm sure that you're eager to get on your way; you're almost home. There's the circlet. Do you need anything? No? Ok, I'll send Dayna the neomail, good luck!”
Kanuah and Sirenia looked at the door that the boy had closed. “That was fast.”
Kanuah jumped off the porch. “Let's keep going; the other team has to be checked in already too.”
Sirenia started down the path. “The exit gate is down this one, right?”
“Yeah, just follow the wall.”
Sirenia looked at a statue that she ran past. “Hey, did you notice the statues of the Heroes in the Hall of Heroes out here?”
Kanuah didn't look. “They're spaced out along the wall that goes around the city.”
Sirenia suddenly screeched to a halt. “Hey! It's the Thief, the constellation we followed here.”
Kanuah pulled at her tail. “That's nice, let's go.”
Sirenia put out a hoof to touch the dagger the thief held. “We could at least pay our respects....”
As her hoof touched the dagger, the dagger collapsed and a trap door opened up under their feet. With a shout, they tumbled in.
Kanuah hit the cold stone floor.
Sirenia hit Kanuah. “Ouch.”
Sirenia froze, Kanuah had that tone in his voice that he saved for times like when Ashalyia and Sirenia had used his straw bed for target practice. “Y-yes?”
“When I say don't touch anything... I mean don't touch anything!” Kanuah snapped.
“Doesn't cover it.”
They both got up and brushed themselves off. It was then that they noticed they were surrounded by a group of shady looking neopets. The group of about five pets, was wearing black masks and carrying various weapons.
“Great, another delay,” Kanuah muttered as he drew his katana.
A Grarrl pointed a dagger at Sirenia. “What are you... Ouch!” he exclaimed as a small stone hit his eye.
Kanuah looked at Sirenia, who had spit the stone out. “How long have you had that in your mouth?”
“Since you gave it to me.”
Kanuah shook his head. “Make short work of it, Sirenia.”
Before any of the group could move, they were out cold, either by a blaster stun or a sharp rap on the head with the hilt of a katana.
Kanuah sheathed his weapon. “What were they doing down here?”
Sirenia leaned towards a box. “Smuggling petpets.” She took off the lid, showing him a group of very puzzled and frightened petpets from all places in Neopia.
“Great, we'll tell the guard at the gate they're here; now let's find a way out.”
Sirenia stumbled against a staircase as she felt along the passage way. “Found it.”
Kanuah felt along the stairs. “There has to be a switch some....” His paw hit a lever and a panel slid back, throwing sunlight down into the dark. “....where.”
He pulled Sirenia out. “Let's go. We can make it home by tomorrow morning if we run all night.”
“Can we run all night?”
“Do you want to win?” Kanuah shifted his pack. “This seems heavier for some reason.”
“Did you add water to it?”
“Maybe it's the stress getting to you.”
“Dunno, there's the gate and the guard.”
“How in the world did you get us lost in a circular city!?” Ankhele shouted.
“We're from Krawk Island, not Shenkuu or Altador. I don't know the streets.”
“They have to be half way to Shenkuu by now.”
“I...” Luke paused has he turned a corner. “Hey! There's the exit gate!”
“Is it going the right way?”
Luke was already running. “Yes,” he said in a hurt tone. “Uh oh.” He bent down to look at the ground and sniffed. “They've been here already.”
Ankhele caught the collar of his shirt and dragged him out. “No time to wait staring at the ground then.”
“It's a little hill, you can get up fine, and it cuts off a mile of the path.” Kanuah held out a paw to help his sister up.
Sirenia looked up the not-quite-little hill. “Right.”
Kanuah hauled her up. “Careful, Dandans like to hang out here. They try to steal stuff out of your bag.”
Sirenia dragged herself up the hill. “Sure. This would be a lot easier with four legs.”
“I thought we had the conversation already.”
As Kanuah leaned down to help his sister, a bright red Dandan landed on his back and dug a paw into his pack.
“Hey!” Kanuah turned to bat the petpet off. But just as he raised a paw, a laser shot out of the bag and hit the Dandan, sending it flying.
The confused Dandan scrambled up a tree.
“What the?” Kanuah opened his pack.
A little gray and white blur raced out and up his arm to his shoulder. It was another petpet.
“Where did this come from?”
Sirenia touched it with a hoof. “What is it?”
The Griefer nodded its head and blinked its eyes.
“I guess he hopped on in Altador. I thought the pack felt heavier.”
Sirenia continued to haul herself up the hill. “Whatever it is, let's keep going.”
Kanuah patted the Griefer's head. “Want to come along?”
“Need name,” a mechanical voice in the petpet said.
Kanuah jogged up the hill while talking with it. “Name?”
“Thief!” Sirenia shouted from above him. She was yelling at a Dandan who had made off with a biscuit from her pack.
“Thief.” The petpet hovered over Kanuah and smiled.
“Oookay then.” Kanuah shrugged. “Let's go, Thief.”
“Come on, Ankhele, it's just a little hill, and it will cut off a mile of travel,” Luke insisted.
Ankhele muttered choice words as she climbed up the no-so-little hill. “Sure, Luke.”
The fire Lupe helped his sister up. “There's Kanuah's footprints and Sirenia's hoof prints. They came this way.”
“I can empathize with Sirenia,” Ankhele muttered.
“There! That wasn't too bad now, was it?”
Sirenia lay panting on the base of the hill. “Next time, we're going around.”
Thief hovered over her curiously.
Sirenia got up and pushed him over towards Kanuah. “I'm not carrying extra weight, little guy. Get a ride from the four legged one.”
Kanuah put an arm around his sister. “Come on, we're five hours from home.” His ears perked up. “And if I'm not mistaken, the other team is right behind us.”
Sirenia began to jog again. “Fine. Let's finish this.”
“They're right behind us!”
“I told you we should have gone over the hill,” Kanuah reminded Sirenia.
“Shut it!” Sirenia huffed.
“We've almost got them,” Luke panted excitedly.
“How much farther?”
“Only ten miles.”
Ankhele put on extra speed. “Let's make them count.”
“Only ten miles left?” Sirenia sped up. “We can't lose now!”
“The river that goes by our house is coming up, you can jump in and put on some extra speed.”
“What are the rules about winning?”
“The first team to cross.”
“So both of us have to cross?”
“Both of us?” Ankhele asked.
“Dang. There's the river!”
Luke shaded his eyes. “Sirenia's already in.”
Ankhele sprinted for the river. “I'll meet you at the finish line!” She jumped and dove gracefully in.
Luke sprinted faster. “You got it.”
“When will they be here?” Ashalyia asked.
“By tonight,” Dayna answered for the tenth time.
“What if they don't come?” Jetta asked.
“Then we wait,” Taylor answered for the eleventh time.
Just then Rafaran and Racon came running in. “Hey, we saw them from the hill!”
Dayna jumped up. “Where are they?”
The two pets stopped to catch their breath. “Luke and Kanuah are coming on land, Sirenia and Ankhele are in the river about a mile away.”
Dayna ran to the red ribbon that marked the finish line. “They should be here soon!”
Ashalyia climbed up onto her shoulders. “Who ever crosses first gets the brush?”
“Gotta win, gotta win, gotta win.” Sirenia pushed herself faster and faster. She was still ahead of Ankhele by a little bit. She saw the exit point coming up. “Just a few more yards.” She gave an extra push as she broke the surface and hit the ground. She could see the finish line with everyone crowded around it.
She heard Ankhele break the water behind her. “Not this time!” Sirenia galloped towards the finish. Ankhele was right on her tail. Sirenia dug into the turf. She was almost, almost, almost...
“Sirenia's across!” Dayna cheered. “By a foot!”
Sirenia collapsed. She was across before Ankhele.
“And here comes the Lupes!” Taylor jumped up and down.
Sirenia turned around and watched the two race across the meadow neck and neck. “Come on, Kanuah! What was that whole trip if you can't beat him now?!”
Kanuah and Luke put all of the rest of their energy into the last sprint.
Taylor leaned down to eye level with the finish line. “and... and... and... It's a...?”
Dayna watched as the two thundered across the line. “A tie.”
The two Lupes collapsed, panting and heaving.
Everyone stared at them. Ankhele was the first to speak.
“All that way for a tie?”
Kanuah rolled over. “I guess so.”
“That's anti-climatic,” Racon noted.
Sirenia took off the metal circlet and handed it to Dayna. “I brought it back, safe and sound.”
Dayna took it back. “So....” She looked at Taylor. “What do we do with the prize?”
Taylor held up the brush that was wrapped in a ribbon. “We could...”
“Ah ha!” A blue form swept by and snagged the brush out of her hand. “Thanks!”
Dayna watched the Paint Devil float off with her brush. “And that is why I wanted to keep it in the Safety Deposit Box.”
Kanuah shaded his eyes against the setting sun. “Was he carrying two jugs of water?”
Sirenia threw an arm around Ankhele. “Well, that wasn't all for nothing. We had a lot of fun and saw a lot of stuff. And I beat you so I really don't care about the whole 'team' winning thing.”
That did it.
“You beat me?! I would have so beat you if Luke hadn't made me climb over two hills.”
“Yeah, right. I carried more.”
Dayna put her face in her hands. “This was all for nothing. There they go again.”
Taylor stroked Luke. “I think that's how they'll always be, even if they are good friends.”
Ashalyia skipped up to Kanuah as he lay exhausted on the ground and tapped on his head. “Did you bring me back something pretty?”
Kanuah froze. “Ummmm.” He dug around his pack. “Yeah, right... here!”
He pulled Thief out. “We brought him back for you.”
“Where did you get a Griefer?” Dayna asked.
“Long story,” he answered.
Ashalyia giggled as Thief hovered above her. “He's so cute!”
“Not a word I would use, but if she likes it,” Sirenia muttered to Kanuah.
Dayna threw an arm around each pet. “Come on, we have a big dinner for you, then you are to sleep for three days straight.”
Sirenia leaned over to Kanuah. “Do you think we'll get to do this again?”
“You always say that.”
“I always think that.”