An Altador Cup Dilemma
It was a sunny Saturday morning and Calodrun, a Halloween Bori, was having a cup of Breakfast Tea with Raspberry Scones and clotted cream. He reached over for the newest issue of the Neopian Times, which boasted "ALTADOR CUP PRESS TOUR" across the top. It was all over the news and NeoTV, the Altador Cup, because it was the biggest event of the summer.
Calodrun sighed, pushing the newspaper away. Every year, everyone was so excited for the Altador Cup and every year, he wasn’t. He just didn’t really see the appeal – it was too sporty, too noisy, and too spirited for him. He’d much rather stay at home curled up next to a good book or dining at Kelp or the Golden Dubloon. The Altador Cup and its festivities were simply too rambunctious for him.
Right as Calodrun decided he was going to have a quiet day at home during his day off, there was a loud knocking on his front door.
"Cal! Open up, I know you’re in there!" came a familiar female voice on the other side of the door. It was one of his closest friends, Sqiggleywoo, a Royalgirl Blumaroo. She was a Beauty Contest pageant and avid supporter of Team Roo Island.
Calodrun groaned. "Just a minute, Gley!" he called out. So much for his relaxing day off. He got up, slipping his feet into Babaa Pyjama Slippers, and walked over to get the door. The door opened to reveal Gley, who was fully decked out in Team Roo Island gear. She was wearing the Roo Island Altador Cup Jersey, had the Team Spirit Banners strapped to her back, and was clutching a Roo Island Altador Cup Team Yooyu Plushie. She had even painted red, yellow, green, and blue diamonds on her face.
"Happy pre-season!" Gley exclaimed, giddily. But when she saw Calodrun, she frowned. "Where is all your Altador Cup gear? Why are you wearing slippers?"
Calodrun raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"
Gley continued to frown at him. "It’s Altador Cup recruitment day! It’s time to sign up for your team at the sports center."
"I don’t have a team," Calodrun said flatly. He couldn’t believe it. Gley had stopped by for this, to bother him about the Altador Cup?
"Well," Gley said, her enthusiasm returning. "Let’s go get you one! There’s a fair right outside the registration area, where teams and their players are doing meet and greets and last-minute recruiting. I’m heading over to join Team Roo Island, why don’t you come with me and see which team you like?"
"Hmm," Calodrun pondered. It was still early, and even if he chose to go, he’d still have plenty of time to relax when he got back home. After all, it didn’t hurt to check out the Altador Cup that he heard so much about every year, if only to confirm how much he didn’t care for it. "Okay," he said. "Let’s go."
Gley clapped her hands together. "Yay! You won’t regret it."
A little while after, Calodrun and Gley had reached Altador; the whole city was bustling with excitement and activity. Calodrun was already beginning to regret coming, especially as hordes of people in miscellaneous outfits ran past him. It was crowded and boisterous, but he could not deny that everyone was in high spirits, even if it was irritating.
"So," Gley started, turning to look at him. "Where do you want to start?"
Calodrun shrugged. "Wherever," he mumbled, already counting the minutes until they could leave. Maybe he should just pick a team and get it over with.
"Well, what about Haunted Woods? You are Halloween, after all," Gley pointed out. "Let’s go over to their table!"
As they approached the orange and black decorated table, a Fire Korbat zoomed over to them with impossible speed.
"Hello, hello," he called out, landing deftly in front of them, unintentionally blowing a wave of cold air at them. "My name is Zo Junior and I’m a forward for Haunted Woods! I’m a big deal around here!"
Gley giggled. "Hi, Zo. I was wondering if you could tell my dear friend Cal here more about your team. He’s undecided," she said, "unlike me, if my gear didn’t already say that."
"Well, best of luck to Roo Island this year," Zo said with a laugh. "So, Cal, you any good at Yooyuball?"
"Uhh," Calodrun muttered, feeling a little out of place in front of a professional Altador Cup player. "To be honest, I’ve never played a game in my life."
"That’s not a problem," Zo said, his voice genuine. "Although I would enjoy having you on the field, there are a ton of things you can do to help, like sling slushies, help with warm ups, and even cheer for your team."
Calodrun smiled, feeling a lot more at ease now. Maybe there was something he could do to contribute to a team. "Thanks, Zo," he said. "I’ll be sure to keep Haunted Woods in mind when registering."
"Not a problem. Best of luck with your choice!" Zo called out before zooming off to other idling Neopets.
"So?" Gley asked Calodrun when they had walked out of earshot. "Is Haunted Woods your choice?"
"I’m not sure yet," Calodrun said. The high spirits of the whole town and festival were getting to him, and he wasn’t even annoyed by all the clamor he was surrounded by anymore. "Let’s go see a couple more teams."
The two walked a little further when they were suddenly stopped by a giant orange Elephante wearing a Team Altador jersey.
"Halt!" the Elephante shouted. "Do I see an undecided player?"
Gley quickly jabbed a finger in Calodrun’s direction. "This guy!" she announced.
"Well," the Elephante said, putting an arm around Calodrun’s shoulders. "My name is Salayne Ritad, and I’m the goalie for Team Altador, of the lovely city you see around you. See, as the hosts of the whole event, we have quite a lot of home field advantage."
"Goalie, huh?" Calodrun asked. "How does that work?"
Salayne took a wide, defensive stance with his legs. "As goalie, my job is the last line of defense to made sure that Yooyuball never goes into the net!" He dramatically mimed blocking a Yooyuball.
Gley nodded. "That’s pretty important, Cal, maybe you could do that!"
Calodrun looked at the large Elephante and then at his own, smaller Bori body. "I don’t think I’m cut out for goalkeeper. Let’s move on."
Salayne laughed. "Keep Team Altador in your hearts and in your consideration!"
Gley and Calodrun waved as they walked away. "What are you thinking about?" Gley asked, after they strolled in silence for a bit.
"Well-," Calodrun started, but was cut off by a whizzing Yooyu. "Whoa!"
"Heads up!" came a voice from behind them.
With an amazingly quick reaction time, Gley snatched the Yooyu out of the air. Calodrun stared at her, impressed. "What?" Gley asked innocently. "That’s just years and years of being a supporter of Team Roo Island!"
A Cloud Aisha approached them and Gley handed her the Yooyu. "That was a good catch, it’s a shame you’re already called for by Roo Island," the Aisha said. "I’m Prytariel, the captain of Team Terror Mountain. And you two are…?"
"I’m Cal." Cal spoke up first, pointing to himself, then to Gley. "And this is my friend Gley. What’s it like being a captain?"
Prytariel smiled proudly. "It’s the best feeling a player could have! Being captain, calling the shots, enabling your team, it’s all a dream. At Team Terror Mountain, we love the game, but we also love having fun and just throwing the ball around." At that, she juggled the Yooyu between both of her knees. "Whaddaya think?"
"Well, it’s my first year, and I think I want to take this year seriously," Calodrun admitted, shocked at his own enthusiasm.
Prytariel frowned. "Well, if you ever change your mind and want to take it easy, you know who to sign up with!"
"Thanks for your time!" Gley called out as she and Calodrun took their leave.
After seeing a few other tents (notably teams Krawk Island, Meridell, Maraqua, and Darigan Citadel), the two friends found themselves at a beautifully decorated table. The unmistakable pink, purple, and green décor, in addition to the portable clouds, let them know they were at Team Faerieland’s table. A Faerie Zafara approached them.
"Glad y’all found time to stop by! I’m Delma Harrence and I play defense for the best team in Neopia – Team Faerieland!" she said animatedly.
"It’s gorgeous here," Gley commented, reaching out to touch one of the clouds.
"More beautiful than Team Roo Island’s table," Delma said with a wink. "I’m just joking. Are there any questions I can answer for you two?"
"Actually," Calodrun started, "what does the defender do on the field?"
Delma gave him a wide smile. "That’s a wonderful question! Defenders are kind of like the muscle on the field. What we lack in speed and goal scoring we make up in taking back possession of the ball and assisting the goalkeeper with making sure the other team doesn’t score."
"Wow," Calodrun commented. "That is pretty important."
"And it’s a good position for you, since you run so slow," Gley teased, nudging Calodrun on the side. "So," she said, turning to Delma. "Do you guys get more Faerie Yooyus?"
Delma laughed. "I wish! But no, it’s not like that. We don’t get more Faeries, Moltara doesn’t get more Fires, Terror Mountain doesn’t get more Snow, and so forth. Yooyus are totally random and fickle. When the stadium ground opens, it’s whichever Yooyu gets to the top first!"
"How interesting," Calodrun said with wide eyes. "So many things can contribute to how the games go."
Just then, a Tyrannian Krawk shimmied over to the three of them. "Delma, you poaching players?" he asked, spinning a toothpick in his mouth. He was wearing Team Tyrannia gear. He pointed a finger at Gley and Calodrun. "You two, you two listening to her? Faerieland’s never won a cup in their lives, whadda they know?"
Delma rolled her eyes. "Spikes, don’t you have anything better to do then to annoy these good folks?"
Spikes shrugged. "Not that I know of."
Calodrun laughed. "Your name is Spikes?"
"Spikes Barmie, Spikes may or may not be my real name," the Krawk said with a lopsided smile. "And you’ll be joining Tyrannia if you know what’s best for ya. That one," he added, tilting his head towards Gley and her Roo Island colors, "that one’s already made the wrong choice but ya still got time."
All four of them laughed, the good-natured competition settling in nicely in Calodrun’s heart. Maybe there was something special about the Altador Cup after all.
A while later, the two had just about finished seeing and meeting members of all of the Altador Cup teams (narrowly dodging an exploding Robot Yooyu at Virupets’ station!). Team Mystery Island had performed a traditional hula dance, which was simultaneously wholesome and hilarious. Team Shenkuu wielded ninja weapons for their audience, making note that ninja weapons would not actually be used in any Altador Cup games. And Team Lost Desert invited fairgoers to play Tug-O-War with the players. Now, Gley and Calodrun were sitting on a park bench, sharing a Yooyuball Pizza, when Gley had one last request.
"Hey, Cal," she said. "I know I’ve already made my team choice, but do you mind if we stop by Team Roo Island?"
"Of course not. You’ve spent the whole day going around seeing teams with me although you already knew you were going to sign with Roo Island. That is the least I could do."
Gley stuffed the last slice of the Yooyuball Pizza into her mouth. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she exclaimed, getting up and pulling Calodrun into the direction of Team Roo Island’s tent.
When the team members saw her, they immediately lit up and went to greet her.
"Gley!" Jair Tollet, a Maraquan Eyrie, called out. "It’s so nice to see you! And look at you, you’re in full gear!"
Lilo Blumario, a Yellow Blumaroo and the team’s captain, gave a wave. "It’s great to see you supporting your home team again this year."
"Every year," Gley insisted, giving them all hugs. "Win or lose, there’s no team I’d rather fight next to."
"And fight we will," the goalkeeper, Clutch Billaban, said. "As we do every year."
"And who is this?" a Red Lupe named "Squeaky" Tressif asked, gesturing to Calodrun.
"One of my closest friends, and an undecided," Gley answered with a smile. "But I think it’s about time to register for a team, isn’t it?"
Fenny Vail, a Red Usul, nodded. "We’ll leave you two to it, then. I can’t wait to see your name on the roster list, Gley!"
Giving the team another round of hugs, Gley joined Calodrun to walk over to the registration area. "How do you feel now? Have you made a choice?" Gley asked Calodrun.
"I have," Calodrun said with confidence.
Far from the surly Calodrun at the beginning of the day, this Calodrun was enamored by the charm and spirit of the Altador Cup. He had learned more about the games, chatted and laughed with the players, and saw the crazy rituals of teams and their fans. The whole tournament wasn’t just about sports, it was about community. Boldly, he stepped up to the registration counter and said:
"My name is Calodrun, and I’m here to register for the Altador Cup!"