Fates Entwined: Part One
Part One by Tdyans
Nearly a year ago, the members of The Neopian Times Appreciation Guild began
a project—an experiment, really—that we called the Round Series. The main idea
behind this project was that we would write a series together, with each part
being written by one of the different authors who signed up to help. As the
series progressed, we also enlisted some of our talented artists to illustrate
their visions of the story. Now “Fates Entwined”— as the guild members have
voted to call it — is finally completed, and the experiment turned out better
than we could have ever expected. The basic idea for the plot comes from our
message board speculations about what the story behind the then-new world of
Meridell would be. Of course, the actual plot turned out to be vastly different,
but you can think of this as a chapter from Meridell’s past. In any case, we
hope that you enjoy it, and I’d like to say a big thank you and congratulations
to everyone who has participated and contributed to the success of this series
and to all of the members of NTAG, both past and present. --Tdyans, NTAG Editor-in-Chief
Lightning darted through the night sky, illuminating
the silhouette of the distant castle as a faint knock sounded at the door of
the humble cottage. The three Lupes who huddled inside the leaky hovel looked
up and exchanged glances before one of the males walked slowly to the door and
opened it to reveal a strangely-dressed Aisha. The odd visitor stared into the
troubled eyes of the Lupe before him and then went to stand quietly in the shadowy
corner of the cottage and wait until he was asked for.
The shadowed Lupe who had opened the door resumed
his pacing, and the Aisha observed the tattered peasant’s clothes that seemed
to fit him poorly-- not only because he was terribly thin, but for other less
obvious reasons as well. The second male, a green Lupe, sat at a small, wooden
table at one end of the room. In the impeccable clothing of a Meridell noble,
he looked completely out of place inside the dingy cottage, and a forlorn expression
creased his face as his eyes darted between the other Neopets in the room.
The third inhabitant of the cottage was a yellow
Lupess who wore the same drab, ragged clothing as the shadowed male. She sat
on the tiny, bowed bed, clutching two bundles to her chest and weeping quietly.
Finally, the shadowed Lupe ceased his pacing, and with a sigh he resolutely
approached her and bent down to look into her tear-filled eyes. “Gretana,” he
spoke tenderly, his eyes darting to the two tiny bundles, “you know that this
is what we must do, don’t you? This is the right thing.” She nodded sadly, but
still flinched instinctively when he reached out and gently took one of the
bundles from her.
Staring down fondly at the tiny green Lupe pup
who laid in his arms, he walked over to the noble, who stood up quickly from
his seat at the table and stood ramrod straight. The peasant held the baby out
to him, and the noble awkwardly stuck his arms out to accept the precious bundle.
“His name is Luparn,” the peasant Lupe stated as the noble stared down at the
small creature in awe.
The noble looked up from the baby and finally
spoke, nodding his head quickly up and down. “Luparn... I will raise him as
my own, as a noble, your highness. He will have all of the best things in life--
all that a childhood in the royal court could offer. I promise you that. He
will be Lord Luparn... not a prince as he rightly deserves, your highness, but
it’s all I can give....”
“It’s all I ask, Sarkif,” the shadowed Lupe
sighed. “And please stop calling me ‘your highness.’ I am no longer the king
of Meridell. Whether rightfully or not, Mordeo holds the crown now.”
The noble, Sarkif, looked crestfallen. “I am
sorry, yo-- Lupold, but I don’t think I will ever stop thinking of you as my
king. And I know that I will never see that dark-hearted Draik as such.”
His voice escalated in anger as he spoke of Mordeo.
Lupold, the former king of Meridell, now reduced
to a simple peasant by Mordeo, put a calming paw on his former noble’s shoulder.
“I know, old friend. I am sorry. You are the only one who has remained loyal
to me through everything, and you were always my most trusted noble and confidant.
That is why I am entrusting you with my son. I know that I will never come to
power again, but perhaps, with your help, he will someday take his rightful
place on the throne....”
Sarkif nodded quietly, turning his attention
back to the baby that slept in the warm cradle of his arms, until Lupold suddenly
spoke again. “There is one more thing.” The noble watched as Lupold walked slowly
over to a shelf on the other side of the room and carefully lifted a long, flat
object from it. “I want him to have this,” Lupold stated, removing the sheath
to reveal a steel blade that shone under the dim candlelight-- the only thing
in the dirty cottage that shone any more. “When he is old enough,” he added
as he held the sword out to Sarkif.
Sarkif gasped. “But your highness--” he said,
forgetting himself at the sight of the legendary and mighty sword that had been
Lupold’s faithful weapon through all of his greatest victories.
Lupold slid the sword back into its sheath and
shook his head before Sarkif could continue. “I have no more use for it, Sarkif.
Take it, and teach him to use it well. At least then he will have something
left of me in his life, even if he does not know it.” Sarkif nodded again and
slowly reached his free hand out to take the sword and stuff it safely into
Lupold turned back to his wife, the former queen
of Meridell, and held out his arms to take a child from her once more. But Gretana
shook her head at him, resolution shining in her teary eyes, and stood up from
the bed to approach the stranger herself. The Lost Desert Aisha walked slowly
out of the shadows to meet her halfway and held his paws out to take the child.
She held the baby back for a moment as she examined the strangely-dressed creature
before her. “His name is Lupold,” she told him. “After his father.”
The Aisha shook his head sympathetically. “His
name will be changed of course. He must have a Lost Desert name.”
The tears that she had been holding back began
to seep from Gretana’s eyes again as she looked down at the little shadowed
pup, the spitting image of his father. “Oh Lupold,” she said, turning to her
beloved husband in distress. “Can’t we let Sarkif take him too. At least then
they would be together, and maybe we’d get to see them both from time to time,
even if it was from a distance….”
“No Gretana, you know we can’t,” Lupold said,
trying to sound stern, struggling not to succumb to the grief in her eyes. “The
prophecy says that twin Lupes of royal blood will destroy the dark king and
restore peace to Meridell someday. Mordeo knows this, and if he sees Sarkif
with two Lupe pups, he will become suspicious. Our sons are only safe apart.”
He paused and swallowed painfully. “Far, far apart.”
He turned back to the desert Aisha then and
questioned, “King Kepsel has agreed to what I asked in my letter? He will raise
my son as his own?”
The Aisha nodded, offering a comforting smile.
“Yes, my king has decided to name him Coltzan. It is a name of greatness-- the
name of two of our most honored kings of the past. He will be King Coltzan III
of Sakhmet, someday.”
Lupold nodded and turned again to his wife.
“He will be a king, Gretana. That is so much more than we can offer him now.
And besides the three of us in this room, no one in Meridell knows anything
about the outside world, not even Mordeo. And only King Kepsel and a few of
his most trusted advisors and servants in Sakhmet know of our kingdom. He will
be safe. That is more than we can ask.” Gretana nodded, her jaw quivering as
she took a deep breath and handed her second pup over to the waiting desert
Aisha. As soon as the bundle had left her hands, she turned and clung to Lupold,
burying her face in his chest and beginning to sob.
“I will protect the new prince of Sakhmet with
my life on our journey. I promise you that, once-king of Meridell,” the Aisha
said dutifully. Lupold nodded and then leaned over his crying wife to look down
at the tiny pup for what he knew would be the last time ever. Almost as if he
sensed that this was an important moment, the pup opened his big, brown eyes
and stared up at his father. A smile crinkled the corners of Lupold’s eyes even
as he felt his heart breaking, and the small Lupe smiled back contentedly before
curling up into the soft blankets around him and falling back to sleep.
Lupold forced himself to look up and away, steeling
himself as he led the two visitors, each of them clinging to a tiny bundle,
to the door of the cottage. He opened the door and ushered them out, putting
a comforting arm around Gretana as she continued to cry. Sarkif and the Aisha
walked off into the night, splitting off in different directions.
“Take good care of them!” the former king called
out into the howling wind as the Lupe and Aisha disappeared from his sight in
the inky blackness that surrounded Meridell. “They have a destiny to fulfil!”
To be continued...