THE DUNGEONS OF MERIDELL - Hey, I'm Jeska, coming to you almost-live from the
prison below Meridell. I am here today with Valrigard, the Draik who's unenviable
plight has been made well-known by the popular game "Escape from Meridell".
"So, Valrigard, how long have you been down here?" I questioned, my pen poised
over a small Shimmery Notebook. I leaned back slightly into the stone wall of
his cell, sitting on the small cot he had graciously vacated for the cold floor.
"I have been locked in this accursed hole for far longer than I wish to recount,"
he replied, dark eyes bright with anger.
Unable to help myself I asked an obvious question, "I take it you don't like
"Would you? The guards are pigs, the other prisoners smell rancid, and my
cell, as you can see," Valrigard replied with a sweeping wave around the tiny
room, "Can hardly even be called a filthy hovel. All I want is to see the sun
"You're right. Just between us, how many times have you, in actuality, tried
to escape?" I queried inquisitively, a personal fan of the game that told of
"Just between us?" He waited for my nod. "Very well. You can't print it though,
Skarl would definitely tighten security if you did," I agreed quickly, and the
Draik leaned forward to whisper the number of times he had unsuccessfully tried
to escape. I bit my lip, trying to hide a grin. How many times did he try it?
Well, I'm certainly not going to tell you. I did promise, after all…
"What do you down below? Hobbies, and such I mean. I know there must be something
you do to wile away the hours," I referred quickly to my blue notebook for questions.
"Usually I just think. You would be amazed how quickly time can past when
you just sit down and think. I think about Skarl, my life, traitors in general,
and things larger than me like the meaning of life, the true meaning of love.
That kind of stuff. I know you think that's funny, but I am serious. I've become
quite the philosopher since I was locked up. I also write and draw on the little
scraps of paper they sometimes let me have. Currently I am putting together
a memoir of my life, it should be done in… a few years. Heh. Maybe," The Draik
"Ah, yes. You mentioned the guards, what is your relationship with them? On
the way down I noticed that many of the other prisoners seemed to be on fairly
good terms with their captors. Is this the case with you?" I asked, recalling
a sentence from an earlier answer.
"They are all servants of the King, and therefore no friends on mine. They
call me Valrigard the Traitor. As if they are any better. I hear them, late
at night when they assume everyone is sleeping, talking about Skarl and his
many blunders. I hear them," he spoke, adding at my doubtful gaze, "Well, there
is one that is not like the others. A Moehog who ran from the Citadel and set
to work down here. He had been a prisoner of Lord Darigan, falsely accused of
espionage, he said. We understand each other. We have both been betrayed by
Noting the sadness that tinged his voice I prompted gently, "So you feel that
King Skarl betrayed you?"
"Absolutely! He was a friend and yet he turned on me." A fire sprang into
the Draik's intelligent eyes as he spoke. He began shaking with suppressed fury,
the bowl of gruel he held almost breaking under his wrathful grip.
Giving the Draik a moment to collect himself I pondered my next question,
"What is it exactly that you are accused of?"
"Subversive activities!" Valrigard burst out angrily, "I was one of his top
tacticians and a close friend yet he dared to accuse me of such a horror. He
has had all record of my life in Meridell destroyed. Skarl is paranoid and power
hungry. That is not a good combination."
Finally I asked Valrigard the question that had been bothering me since I
had first heard of him, "If you were free today would you join with Lord Darigan,
because of what King Skarl has done to you?"
The Draik hesitated for just a moment before answering firmly, "Never. Skarl,
himself, I won't serve, but I could never betray my beloved Meridell."
"That's good," I paused, glancing down at my notes as I silently admired his
devotion, "What is your take on the game "Escape From Meridell"?
He grinned, "I love it. Though I must admit that I can't get past level 11
myself. It is fairly realistic and helps to bring Skarl's folly to the attention
of the common Neopian."
Looking back at the glittering notebook I said, "That seems to be all. Thank
you for giving up some of your valuable time for this interview."
"It has been my pleasure. I don't get many visitors down here," Valrigard
spoke with a rare laugh, "Just the other prisoners, guards, and the occasional
He drew his brow together in a puzzled motion, "Though how they get in, I
will never know."
"Is there anything else you would like to add?" I questioned, signaling for
the guard to let me out.
The Draik nodded, "I just want all of Neopia, especially Meridell, to do know
that I am innocent of the charges set against me."
"By the way," Valrigard added curiously, "How did you convince the King to
let you interview me? That doesn't seem like him."
"I didn't," I whispered with an impish grin, "but don't tell the guards that."
A heavily armed Grarrl tapped impatiently on the iron door, motioning for
me to follow him. Bolting the door shut behind me the guard began to stride
down the narrow corridor. I winked broadly at Valrigard, who responded in the
like, before trailing the Grarrl out of the dungeons.