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Week 483
You are on Week 484
Week 485

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Four Hundred Eighty Four Ends Friday, November 12

The war never left you.

No, there was never a respite from history's nagging claws if you lived on the Citadel. The boiling red clouds and tall, gloomy spires that twisted to the sunless sky were a testament to that, a constant reminder that what had been would never grace the tainted land again.

Shayla glanced down at her claws, long and black. She could still remember the days where she'd been as beautiful as her land. She'd been born while the Orb still shone for the Citadel, but those days seemed almost unrealistic to her, like a fragmented and ephemeral dream.

It made no difference, anyway. Her Aisha paws were no longer soft and blue, but studded with ebony talons. Frightening, like the rest of her. Once, she had been a gentle and forgiving soul, but hardship and pent-up bitterness had left her as dark and cynical as she looked.

The war left its scars, after all.

It had been a day like any other, with nothing to raise it above the constant, dreary cycle of yesterday-to-tomorrow. Indeed, nothing changed on the outside, nothing visible to any onlookers -- except perhaps a glint in a Darigan Aisha's eyes.

Today, Shayla decided, was the time to set things right...

***

The war never left you.

His fields were pristine now, the picture of beauty. Flat plains on the edge of a thick woodland -- no matter how hard he squinted, the Draik couldn't see any sign that the Darigan war machines had plowed through years prior, digging deep ruts into the farmland as they rolled on toward the castle. The land seemed to be indifferent to the struggles of Meridell and Darigan -- it seemed to go on untouched, healing itself of its scars.

Not for the first time, Jay wished he could do that.

He couldn't look at the Citadel, even now. When it would drift across the sun and he'd involuntarily glance up to see what caused the shadow, he'd feel the all-too-familiar anger rise inside of him -- like the Citadel's shadows penetrated even his heart.

His fields had restored themselves, his house had been rebuilt. But he could put forth all the effort he wanted to -- it didn't matter, in the end. His sister would never come back.

The war left its scars, after all.

He propped himself against his hoe, scowling to himself as he closed his eyes. There was no reason to get wrapped up in the past. He just had to take a deep breath and let life go on, and it would. He wasn't leaving the past behind, he argued to himself, because there was no way he could take it with him. She was gone.

So why did his inactivity feel like he was betraying her?

She'd always been a pacifist. Up until it had claimed her, she'd viewed the war with a sort of pity and disgust. "I do hope it ends soon," she had said time and time again. "All those poor pets getting hurt..."

No, she wouldn't have wanted him to carry on the fight past its closure. But he always carried the fight within him.

Jay opened his eyes with a sigh, just in time to see a slender purple form vanish into the forest...

Author: Dianacat777
Date: Nov 8th
***

The war never left you.

That's what everyone had told her. She, being so very young, naive, and patriotic, hadn't believed them. Time had proved them right. The war stayed with her through every day and every night, whether she was awake or asleep. Nothing she could ever do could change that. Not that she wanted to change that. Those memories were the only thing that kept her tied to reality.

It wasn't the first time she'd been to Meridell since the war. Not by a long stretch. For some reason she kept on coming back, and she would almost always come back to this exact spot. And each and every time she was here, the peace of the place disturbed her. It should be impossible that such beauty could exist where such destruction and pain had once been wrought. But standing here watching the sun glint off the perfect fields, the harvest steadily growing and the unblemished trees standing all around, only reminded her of everything she'd lost.

So Shayla crept into the forest, where even if it was scarless and unblemished, it was at least quiet and dark. And most importantly it was away from the Darigan Citadel. Away from those who'd ruined her, and away from those she'd ruined. These woods were a place where she could hide, a place where she could think. But above all these woods were the place for her to remember. In this place of beauty, and away from the threatening aura of the Citadel, she could remember the lives she'd ruined. In the solitude she could figure out how to make it right.

The war left its scars, after all.

It could still be a day like any other, and to the majority of Neopians, it would be. But to those precious few, this was where Shayla would get revenge.

***

The war never left you.

As Jay watched the purple figure retreat into the forest he felt the slow burning anger that could only prove that. He'd recognise that colour anywhere, he could never forget it. Not since they burned his fields and ransacked his home. Not since they took his sister. That was the colour of Darigan Neopets.

His fields had become pristine again; he'd rebuilt his house. But he couldn't bring back his sister. He at least was allowed the privilege of carrying the scars and the memories. She wasn't even given that. He couldn't leave the past behind. He couldn't allow that the Darigan pets onto his land, into his country. Not after what they had done.

Even with the unexpected anger raging through him, even with his righteous indignation and the pain that still held true. Even so, he was surprised when he started moving purposefully toward the forest. He knew he had to find this Darigan pet, and he knew he had to make things right. This time he wouldn't be inactive. This time he would see things through. This time he would make her proud.

It was only when he was part-way into the forest that Jay realised he didn't know this wood anymore. He hadn't been in here since before the war. Originally he hadn't been able to stand the sight of the trees, blackened and burnt, a fraction of what they had once been. And after he wasn't able to cope with the fact that they could stand strong and tall. That they had been restored, resurrected and once more stood magnificent and proud, whilst he still felt crippled.

The war left its scars, after all.

And once more he felt helpless. Fumbling in a forest he couldn't recognise, couldn't navigate. And somewhere in this forest was the Darigan Aisha.

Jay held the citizens of Darigan Citadel responsible, and knew he had to find her...

Author: selfbetrayal
Date: Nov 8th
***

The war never left you.

But sometimes you needed to leave it. Away from the scarred land, away from the Citadel, Shayla crept through the dark forest. Seeking solace, she peered about the gloom. Almost, almost, she could pretend this was her land before the war was stolen.

The trees swayed gently in the wind, sending dapples of golden light fluttering across the leaf-strewn ground. If she closed her eyes, she was back home, before the Citadel flew. So close her eyes she did, trying to block out all thoughts except those rare ones of peace. These moments never lasted for long.

The war left its scars, after all.

Curling up in the hollow of an ancient oak, the Darigan Aisha slipped into dreams of her homeland, where all was at peace before the Meridellian soldiers came.

***

With a jolt of hatred and fury, Jay made his decision and marched into the dark, untamed woods. For all he knew, this was the very creature who'd taken his sister from him. He could not let it pass unchecked, as if it had a right to his noble land.

The war never left you.

Uncaring of the noise he made (or, perhaps, knowing first-hand and fearing the damage those giant black talons could do), the Draik stomped noisily towards where he'd seen the purple figure vanish.

He went only on his own jaded knowledge of woodlore, noting where the crimson leaves had been ruffled from another's passing. He lost her trail once, twice, and thought himself lost several times, but he was unafraid. He had talons of his own, and wings, beside. Finding his way home would be effortless as telling up from down.

But then, suddenly, he stumbled across a hollow tree with a warty purple Aisha ear poking out. He could not stop the snarl from reaching his face.

The Darigan Aisha whipped her head to meet the snarl. Anger at being awakened in such a rude manner was overridden by the all-too-obvious reek of a Meridell farmer.

Sparks flew between their eyes as they studied one another.

The war never left you.

Author: calicolupe
Date: Nov 9th
***

The war never left you.

And it seemed you could not leave the war. The very forest seemed to hold its breath as the two pets stared at each other, watching and waiting. Shayla was aware of the Draik’s gleaming teeth and unsheathed claws; she could see the enraged snarl that twisted across his maw, transforming an otherwise average face into a picture of hate. She saw the hate, the disgust. She saw everything she had fought against.

He was the enemy.

Jay watched the ugly Aisha stretch and leap nimbly from the gnarled tree. Her dark fur blended in with the deep violet shadows of the trees and her amber eyes glowed malevolently in the darkness. She blinked and for a second and he lost sight of her as the tell tale pricks of light disappeared and she moved through the shadows, drawing closer. When she stilled, he focused on her, forcing himself to try to remember that day and the soldiers. Then she smirked and a shiver ran up his back. It was her.

She was the enemy.

The darkness of the forest seemed to stretch between them, dividing them once more, Shayla on one side and Jay on the other. Neither of them spoke and for a long moment they just looked at each other, passion and anger evident in their gaze. A cold wind was rising up and it blew through the trees, dislodging leaves and setting the whole forest in motion with the two pets in the center, waiting to see who would make the first move.

Then as if in slow motion, a leaf fell through the air between them, ruddy and fresh. It drifted almost in a daze, settling perfectly in the middle of the two and following behind it immediately was a beam of golden sunlight. The sun’s gaze lit the whole clearing, throwing the whole area into the sharp colors of autumn. The trees lit up in dazzling arrays of reds and oranges, their canopies quivering like a flock of butterflies ready to take flight. The blades of grass shone like gold and the very air seemed to hum. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

The sun threw both young faces into relief, changing the harsh shadows of anger into the older stains of pain and grief.

Shayla looked at the Draik standing before her, changed from fearsome beast into someone who looked sad and very tired.

She opened her mouth and broke the silence between them.

“I’m sorry…”

Author: f0reverbr0ken
Date: Nov 9th
The war never left you.

It followed you around persistently like a storm cloud that was eternally on the verge of breaking, constantly reminding you of concepts to hate, others to blame, and vengeances that cried out to be wrought.

But anger was a blaze that was doomed to burn itself out until it perished choking upon its own ashes, leaving only razed emptiness behind.

Shattered dreams, a sense of loss, the soft resignation that nothing could ever put the pieces back together. No matter how great their differences, that was one thing the Aisha and Draik both shared to the core.

Jay blinked. He'd been expecting a furious lash, the sharp and arrogant demeanour of the soldiers he'd remembered... but not an apology. Never an apology, not from them.

"Er, so am I. I mean, it's not your fault. I shouldn't have woken you. I just..."

She raised a paw. In the sunlight -- or perhaps because she was no longer the enemy, but just another Neopet, she no longer seemed so... monstrous. Her fur seemed to shimmer in the autumn light, and that reddish glow on her violet-and-black form gave her a strange and exotic beauty. She was slender, and lean muscle was visible under her sleek pelt. What he'd taken for warts were actually small black spikes, not so unlike his own.

Her voice, however, was closer to what he'd expected. Hoarse, and very, very tired. Not the sort of tired that came from a long day of toil in the fields, but the sort of tired that never left you after a long struggle had been fought and lost.

He would know.

"No, I shouldn't have been here. I don't belong here, anyway." Shayla laughed harshly, but it was directed at herself. "I just..." She let herself trail off, rather cynically wondering what exactly was compelling her to spill her heart out to some farmer.

There was something about him, something familiar. And maybe because he looked like he might be able to understand.

She dismissed this notion as soon as it flitted through her mind. He was a Meridellian, and he had his own grievances against her people. It didn't matter how right or wrong they were -- she knew that nobody had escaped the war unscathed -- it was simply that they were almost obviously for the opposite reasons.

This wasn't the first time Shayla had come down to Meridell. No, she most definitely would have gone mad if she couldn't find somewhere to escape to, somewhere where she could steal little bits and pieces of her past. It didn't matter that this wasn't her world anymore. The fact that this sort of beauty existed anywhere was enough for her, sometimes. A sort of proof that maybe there was some good left in the world.

But she'd come now to settle the score that had been eating away at the stony shell she'd erected around her heart so long ago. It bit at her like thorns, burned like acid. And she knew she'd never be able to live with herself if she didn't make amends for the worst thing she'd ever done.

The Draik was just watching her, an unfathomable expression in his eyes. Waiting for her to continue.

Shayla cleared her throat, her left ear flicking back and forth as it always did when she was nervous. She'd been a coward to not deal with this before -- she knew better than anyone else that scars did not necessarily heal over time. They could simply sit and fester. It may have been years ago, but without having done anything, she was no closer to earning forgiveness than she was the day she'd committed the crime.

The war had left its fair share of scars, and it was up to her to bind one certain wound.

"Do you know where I can find a Neopet named Jay?"...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Nov 10th
At the sound of the name, the Draik stiffened.

"Jay? How do you know him?" was his demand after a moment of silence.

Shayla lowered her gaze. His response had hinted a rise in concern. Perhaps he was familiar with her brother, and perhaps he knew of his hatred for the Darigans. "It's a long story..."

He held up a talon. "No, I insist that you tell me how you know Jay," the Draik persisted.

Shayla shook her head. "He has probably long forgotten about me. Jay has every right to after the abiding pain I put him through."

"Did Jay care about you?"

"Yes..." she trailed off. "I was his sister."

He froze.

"Shayla? Is that you?"

His voice. It had been years, but it surely was Jay's voice. Shayla was not crazed after all.

"Jay?"

They stared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. It was not until Jay grabbed Shayla's wrist and pulled her up that the two embraced.

"Jay... you've changed..." Shayla grinned feebly. "You're no longer that stocky Moehog I grew to love."

"After the war I wanted to start over," Jay replied, still beaming as he eyed his sister. "You've changed yourself."

"It's a long story," Shayla repeated.

Jay nodded, his grip still strong on his sister. "Why did you return? I thought you left for good!"

The smile disappeared from Shayla's face.

The reason.

The reason why Shayla had returned to set things right.

Her mind began to spin. "I had to warn you! I had to find you..." Her voice cracked. Her brother, she just met her brother once again, and now the news had to be delivered.

"Warn me about what? Shayla..." Jay held Shayla's limp body upward, grasping her shoulders and eyeing her with intent and concern. "You need to tell me what's going on."

Her voice waned, her vocals chords began to strain, her eyes welled up, and her lips thinned.

"The war never left you. They're coming back..."

Author: crazy_4_sushi
Date: Nov 10th
Jay's eyes snapped open with shock. "Shay?" he said, using the nickname he had given her what seemed like ages ago. "What do you mean? The war never left me?" He stumbled over the words, forcing them out. It had to be done.

"The war never left you. It never left any of us. They're coming, they're coming, they're coming to fight..." She couldn't keep the worry out of her voice. It was so long since she had fought, much too long. Would she be able to stand her ground? Would she be able to win?

"No."

Shayla looked down at the ground. "Yes," she whispered, unable to meet her brother's eyes. "I can't change destiny. It is why we are brought together again.

"To fight."

Jay's small world was rattled, shaken, turned upside down, all in the past moments. All he had ever cared about, loved, enjoyed, everything he knew, seemed to be wrong. Yet he understood the truth of her words. They were brought together to defend their land, to defend each other. It was destiny.

But he couldn't accept it.

It was only a message. He knew that. The messages he received through Neomail were no different than this one. Still, his life had been changed in that one instant. Fighting... he thought that he could leave the war behind when he refused to battle that one day. By abandoning battle, he thought that he could throw the memories in the Rubbish Dump, and the war would leave him.

He thought it would. But it wouldn't.

The memories rose out of the Dump in his nightmares; the vivid colours of war flashed through his dreams. He woke up, shrugging them off, trying to prove to himself that he could forget. He pretended they were nothing but mere nightmares, not memories. Deep down, he knew. And he wished he didn't.

Jay couldn't fight now. He couldn't. He promised himself to leave the fighting world behind -- forever. He had forgotten the art, the techniques he had used. It was hopeless, a lost cause now...

"Jay?" Shayla's voice was soft, too kind, yet filled with worry. "Are you all right?"

He brought his eyes up from the ground and met hers. "I hope so," he murmured. "I hope so."

"Good." Shayla tried to create a strong aura around her, shielding her from fear, shielding her from the terrible memories. "Now there is only one thing left to do." Her voice was stronger than she remembered it. That is good, she thought. Strong is good. Holding her brother's gaze, putting as much strength and power into her voice, she said, "We fight..."

Author: leafairygirl999
Date: Nov 11th
"I'm here by your side, Shay," the Draik said, steeling his voice with mounting courage. "I'll stand by your side, this time. When they come, I will fight."

The Aisha slitted her eyes, the irises glowing like coals beneath the black smudge of her eyebrows. With a tone husky and foreboding that seemed to come from some place deeper than her slender throat, Shayla growled, "You will not be fighting with me, Jay. You will be fighting against me."

"I... I don't..."

The Aisha hissed and spat as she spoke. "You think I am still the Shayla that you watched running off to fight in that war so long ago? I have news for you... that Shayla is dead. That Shayla died when I became what you see before you now." The sunlight continued to streak through the leafy canopy, illuminating the Aisha like an actor on a stage, an actor who struts and stomps and overemotes with large and expansive gestures. "Truth is, Jay, the moment I joined the army, I was already dead. And one more thing..." Shayla lowered her eyes and her voice so that Jay needed to strain to hear her. "I blame you."

"Me?" The Draik shook his head and took a hesitant step forward, thinking to meet his sister’s eyes and somehow connect with the Shayla that he once knew. "But I didn't..."

"Oh, you didn't do anything, did you?" Shayla snapped her head up, and the arrowtips at the ends of her long ears shot out as though from a bow. "You didn't stop me, did you? You didn't save me, did you? The day I left our farm, that was the day you killed me, brother."

"But the war, it was so long ago..."

"The war may end, you may leave the battlefield, but the war never leaves you." Shayla burst forth with a mocking laugh. "But I don't expect you to understand that."

"Not understand? The war scarred not only those who stood and fought. The war scarred us all. The war never left any of us who stayed behind, either. Every morning I awake and flinch as the sun explodes into the room like a mortar shell. Every twig that snaps outside in the barnyard, every branch that taps against the windows, I think that it is one of those Darigans come to raid the farm. I walk the fields, and though they burst with life and growth, my eyes... my eyes still see them scorched and rutted. Don't you see, Shayla? I am like those fields; I may look strong and hearty, but I am scorched on the inside. No, the war never leaves you, but there comes a time to leave the war." Jay reached out a hand to place on Shayla's shoulder. "Come with me. Leave behind the Darigans."

The Aisha screamed at her brother's touch as though scalded. "Leave the Darigans? I am Darigan." Shayla shrugged off the hand and began to pace around the clearing with a military stride. "It's funny you should mention the farm, the fields that burst with life. We want them." As Jay opened his mouth to protest, Shay continued, "You see our world up there, the Citadel? It is cold and lifeless, as bleak and ashen as a long dead fire. We will not accept our situation any longer. We want the farms."

"But the Darigans, they're not farmers. How will they know how to plant and nurture the crops?"

"Stop saying 'they' as though I am not one of them. We will not be farming. You will."

"I...?"

"You and all of the peasants who have foolishly chosen to study agriculture over warcraft. All these years we have been preparing while you...while you have restored the farms for us."

"But we won't do it. We won't support the Darigan Citadel."

"No? Then you will fight the Darigan."

Jay regarded the Aisha and did not know her. She was not the sister he had mourned and missed. "Why did you come to find me? To fight me?"

"I came to warn you, to make things right. But I also came to take my revenge."

"Revenge for what? I don't understand why you blame me, Shayla. You were always so good and pure. You were against the war... and then you left and joined it."

"Of course I left. I had to leave." The Aisha stood in the center of the clearing as immobile as a statue while a single crimson leaf detached itself from the leafy overhang and seesawed lazily to the ground. As though watching a scene only she could see, Shayla's eyes grew wide with horror as she said in a low and trembling voice, "Do you not remember the crime that I committed?"

Memories, long buried, presented themselves to Shayla in merciless flashes.

The war never left you...

Author: mamasimios
Date: Nov 11th
...and however old your acquaintance, its origins you always knew.

***

Shayla had tried to ignore the thoughts at first, but like an ugly stain upon a cherished photograph, the more she tried to overlook, the more it seemed to jeer and stand out -- and the less the rest of the picture mattered:

Meridell could not win the war.

Not for love, or honour, or the virtues for which the peasants claimed to fight. An Aisha who loved her brother could not stop events from forcing him onto the battlefields that pressed at their home. These things mattered not against the craft, guile, and the war machines of the Darigan -- and more importantly, the desire for destruction that in their eyes burned a tenacious flame.

Meridell, whose serfs wielded pitchforks and trowels and arrows fletched with straw... Meridell, where a simple sharpened sword could scarce be found... Meridell, the land that loved peace and life's simplicities, could not win the war.

It was a burdening notion, conceived perhaps during one of those many times when Jay had hidden Shayla in the pitch blackness of the cellar for her safety while the Darigan troops slashed and burned crops overhead. Those dark, anxious hours, and the sheer helplessness the Aisha felt... She hated, hated the war.

There was only one way it could end, was there not? It would end when one side found victory over the other. And if that side could not be Meridell -- well, it didn't have to be. The end of the conflicts would mean good for both lands.

And the war, one day the war would be but a memory.

***

"You still haven't told me why I should trust a thing you say," the Darigan Captain cut in across Shayla, a faint smile curling behind the words. "Meridellians have no love for Darigan -- as it should be. You and the 'information' you bring are probably some desperate attempt to waylay my troops." The four guards standing on duty chuckled.

The Aisha found she no longer had any fear to hide; the audacity of her actions had thrust her forward like a raft into rough seas, and she would have to face what was upcoming. "I only want the war to end," she answered steadily. "If Darigan can promise that there will be no more hostilities after your victory, I will give you leverage to achieve that victory. That's all."

The Darigan Captain regarded her carefully through lowered lids. "Well, little Aisha," the Hissi purred, "that would depend on the manner of your leverage..."

***

The smoke hadn't yet cleared from the skies over their farm; ashes painted the grey to the remains of the house. Shayla was backing into the trees, her eyes distressed but defiant --

"We've no land nor tolerance for traitor scum," spat voices from the mob. Shovels raised in fury, snarls of displeasure. "Enlisting in the army just to gain plans to betray? You may as well go join your vile new friends."



"Who would have thought," hissed another, "that Meridell would fall not at the hands of enemies, but one of our own?"

And Jay. Jay had not said a word, watching her with expression unfathomable from the path that once wound toward the house. He would have understood the frustrations of the helpless, her need to act -- that if the war didn't end, she would crumble --

Not a word. He let them drive his sister from fair Meridell, to which he knew she may never return.

The war never left you...

Author: _razcalz_
Date: Nov 12th
***

Looking into his sister's crimson eyes, Jay finally understood. He remembered watching her being driven away, himself saying nothing. He hadn't acted, hadn't said anything, but most of all he hadn't stopped his own sister's exile.

"My hatred and fury will finally have somewhere to go if there's another war," Shayla spat. "Though a peaceful takeover is the ideal, my Darigan heart yearns for the toils of war."

"I'm sorry I didn't stop them from driving you away," Jay stammered. "Sorry that..."

Before he could finish, Shayla cut in over the top. "Sorry is almost an empty word coming from you, Jay. You never even stopped to ask me what I told the Darigan soldiers, no-one gave me a chance to clear my name."

"But Shayla, you must know how bad it looked. You conversing with a Darigan Leader just before one of the biggest and most Darigan-dominated battles of the entire war? Our farm was one of those completely destroyed on that day -- it didn't look good for you."

"My own brother should have trusted me, believed in my good side."

Jay could see something different in Shayla's eyes now, some sort of feeling brought to the surface. He could still sense waves of pain, anger, and a thirst for revenge rolling from her, but there was a sense of underlying softness, as if the old Shayla was still there, somewhere. If only he could channel it a little more...

***

It was two days after Shayla had been exiled. Jay sat upon his only remaining possession, a wooden rocking chair that had once sat proudly upon his balcony, his eyes scanning the dead land that had once been his farm. It was just past sunrise, and he knew the Darigan soldiers would be coming at anytime. He knew he needed to get to the frontline, but his eyes didn't want to leave this ravaged land.

What was left for him to fight for? His land and home were completely destroyed, his sister gone for good. Darigan had just had three dominating days, if this were another... Jay hated to think about it. It seemed Meridell could only lose this war.

From the distance, a cry rang out. "Jay! Jay!"

The voice sounded so happy, so excited that Jay immediately jumped to his feet. Over the crest of the hill, a yellow Skeith appeared.

"Jay, good news is upon us -- reinforcements have arrived! The rest of Neopia has answered our distress call!"

Jay's ears perked up. "But it has been near a week since we put out that call -- I thought no-one was coming?"

"They have already joined us in the fray! There is a battle raging outside the castle -- you must come! It looks promising! Things are looking so bad for Darigan's soldiers that Darigan himself has joined the fight!"

Just mere hours later the forces from the Darigan Citadel were toppled, and the war was over. As Jay looked at the broken Citadel in the distance, he knew one thing was certain. The fighting may end, but the war never left you...

***

The Darigan Aisha turned her back on the Draik. "I've done what I came here to do. I gave you fair warning, told you of Darigan's revenge. I have no other reason to stay."

"Shayla, but you must! Meridell couldn't possibly handle another war!"

"Jay, there's nothing more for me to say. Darigan is coming, whether you like it or not."

"Shayla, what did you tell that leader?"

Shayla turned back to Jay, and he spotted tears sitting at the corners of her eyes. "It's too late for that now, Jay. Too late..."

"But I want to know," her brother insisted, taking a hesitant step closer. "I have to know."

"I... I..." Shayla stammered, gathering her words. "I told them that continued fighting with the peasants and farmers was of no use, that they should re-focus their aims on the castle. I told them of every security measure the castle has, to make it quick and relatively painless. I only wanted the war to end quicker; it was easy to see that the Darigan forces were much more well-equipped and stronger than the Meridellians. How was I supposed to know that reinforcements would come, when the rest of Neopia had almost seemed to ignore our calls? How could I... have known..."

The Aisha fell to her knees, tears cascading down her cheeks and sobs escaping from her throat. Instinctively Jay fell down beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. This time Shayla did not flinch, didn't pull away. They stayed like this for some time, together in a way they hadn't been for years.

After what seemed like hours that they sat there, Shayla broke the silence.

"I'm sorry Jay, I didn't want any of this to happen. I just wanted less damage to Meridell, but they just wrecked more... and in the Citadel, I felt my heart change, darken..."

"It's okay, Shayla, I understand," Jay soothed. "What matters most is that you're here now."

"But they're still coming, Jay. They want to take the farms, the life of Meridell. I'm just a lowly soldier in the forces -- I can't stop them now."

"There is something you can do, though," Jay said, standing. As he did so, he offered an outstretched hand to the still-kneeling Aisha.

Shayla took his hand, her movements uncertain as Jay pulled her up from the ground.

"You can fight."

"There's no choice, I must fight..."

"You can fight by my side, for Meridell."

A faint smile played across Jay's lips, and soon enough it was mimicked on Shayla's face.

"I can fight... for Meridell... but what if the others don't accept me?"

"Believe me, if there's going to be another war the forces will accept anyone who is willing to fight."

The siblings embraced once again, a sliver of sunlight falling upon the two Neopets through the leapy canopy.

The war may never leave you, and it may leave its scars but there is always a way to leave the war.

Love.

The End

Author: sadinei
Date: Nov 12th



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