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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 5th day of Celebrating, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 137 > Short Stories > Memories of a Lord: Into the Plain of Darkness

Memories of a Lord: Into the Plain of Darkness

by too_kule

The feeble sunlight, pale and shrouded, failed to pierce the lingering fog atop the moors of Meridell. The grass, still slick with its morning dew, glistened with the glow of the sun's weak light. Morning was atop Meridell now, and the skies were at last clear of the night's darkness.

     Dark shapes cast silhouettes upon Meridell's plains, making the thickets and grass almost twinkle. Shadows from the shimmering lights above Meridell's proudly-standing castle drew attention. By the dawn, when all the farmers in Meri Acres, peasants scattered along the plain, and regal Neopets living inside of the Meridell Castle had risen from their slumber, they were able to read the message.

     Upon the top of every hour, when the belltower rings out the time, five Novas shall be released. Until the throne has been renounced, and the revered Lord Kass has been claimed King of Meridell, the land will not be spared from the Lord's attack. Surrender, or the citizens of Meridell shall perish.

     Lord Kass, the infamous master of the Citadel soaring miles above the ground, promised destruction for the quiet country unless the throne was renounced. The Dark Novas twinkled alongside the fading dawn as they spelled out the message. Only then would the Eyrie call back his Nova attacks, now firing down along the countryside upon the peak of each hour. Lord Kass's ill repute was too much for the citizens to take this with ease; each of them knew what he would do if the throne was surrendered and he was raised as king. No matter the outcome, there would be no victory to be won for Meridell.

     Where the emerald-winged Korbat lay, the wind rippling the lengths of grass across Meridell's infinite plain could be seen. The treetops swayed dangerously with the gusts, creaking and groaning as if in pain under the pressure. A bough of one of the ancient redwoods bent under the pressure, only to snap, soon falling in a thicket patch and crushing it. That's Meridell if Kass isn't stopped, he thought to himself bitterly. A Korbat, unattainable of flight and lacking strength enough to wield a sword, was not going to save the country from the scourge. Even if he had once brought war upon Meridell, nearly crushing it, as Lord Darigan. Which he didn't, or so he tried to convince himself. This land was beyond saving now, but those craftsmen continued to repair the castle's tower, as if thinking that would save them. Nothing would.

     "No," Shard said strongly, biting back at his own dispirited thoughts. He turned his head north of the castle, toward the twisted lands known as the Dark Plain. The land, tainted with the dark magic of the Darigan Citadel, was bereft of all life. Jagged peaks and canyons of stone consumed the land, formed with rock as dark as obsidian. The sky was ever-night and covered with thick plumes of grey cloud. "I can go there and find a way up to the Citadel." From there, he could stop Lord Kass. In secret, of course. He'd have to give out as little information about himself as possible. He had been all too open about himself with Valrigard and the Ixi duo. He would not leave himself vulnerable again.

     Getting to his feet, Shard held out his wings to aid his balance. A Korbat who could not fly was a very unfortunate Korbat, indeed. Taking an unsteady step forward, Shard began his journey into the Plain of Darkness.

***

A dry heat had consumed Meridell as Shard walked. The grass, once lush and a healthy forest colour, was yellowing and only appearing in sparse tufts. Shard doubted it was on the heat's account. The closer the Dark Plain was, the more withered and life-deprived the terrain became. Only an hour had he been walking, and already the life and luster were missing. An hour...

     With a blinding flash and a distant explosion, five bright lights shot from the Citadel, which had grown significantly in the hour. The Korbat tilted up his head, watching as the five Novas spiraled from the airborne castle's spire, raining down upon Meridell. The first, falling out of its flight into tumbling plummet, landed somewhere in the depth of the Dark Plain. Why Kass would attack his own domain was a guess for anybody. The second Nova branched off from the other three to land off east of Meri Acres. Dust rose from the trees that concealed the farmland. The final three soared quite a distance before landing, creator an audible explosion and large craters aside the Meridell Castle. Shard breathed a sigh of relief; minimal damage had occurred.

     Turning his head away from the castle, Shard's eyes caught a lone figure in the distance. The figure, with the stature of an Ixi, was galloping across the parched ground towards him. He was clad in a dark blue sheet over his face and the black garbs a Whinny stallion would wear. Taking a step forward, Shard opened his mouth to ask something of the Ixi, but stopped short. The figure was gaining ground, and showed no signs of slowing his run.

     Shard cried out as he threw himself out of the Ixi's path, breaking off into a roll. The Ixi dug his hoof into the ground, skidding across to a full stop. He made a couple of bounds in the air, kicking its limbs, before charging after Shard again. "Hold o--" The Korbat's plea went unheard, for he only had the split of a second to roll out of the Ixi's path.

     Pulling himself to his feet, Shard stared straight at the Ixi, awaiting his next attack. The Ixi, however, paused; he reached into his garments, retrieving a long scroll. He rose the scroll above his head and spouted some foreign words. A torrent of orange and red flames burst forth from the parchment, cascading through the air at Shard. He held up his wings over his face for defense, still feeling every mite of heat the fire possessed.

     The Ixi dug his forelegs into the ground, preparing to attack again. Shard flung his body across the distance separating them, latching his arms around the battle garments. The Ixi's foreleg rose again, holdings the scroll in its clutch. Shard wrapped his wings around the arm, struggling to pull it down. More bursts fire were sent forth, creating pyres across the plain as the two struggled over the parchment. The Ixi struggled to pushed Shard aside, but he only countered with digging his legs into the tufts of grass even harder. His foot slipped, sliding across the hem of the Ixi's garments. The two fell to the ground, the garbs of Shard's foe tearing down his back. The Ixi's face, youthful with a lustrous green pelt, was revealed.

     "Evrit!" Shard exclaimed, memories of the young Ixi rising. Shard had awakened in the house of the Ixi, where his mother had taken care of him during his slumber. The Korbat had eavesdropped upon a conversation between the Ixi's mother and Lord Kass, discovering his own identity, only to deny it. He had fled before he could be turned in. "What are you doing here?"

     Evrit's eyes squinted tight in glee and a giggle of laughter followed. "I'm patrolling the border between Meridell and the Dark Plain! Hah, with the pillowcase over my head, it looked as if your skin was all blue and warty!" His head was bent with laughter, though Shard was far from doing so. "So," the green-pelted Ixi began, "you're heading to the Dark Plain? Can I come? Please? I could help you beat all of the guards and defeat Lord Kass and we could go on an adventure and save Meridell and then we'll become heros and everyone wi--"

     "No," Shard said firmly. "No, Evrit. You will not follow me to the Citadel. Go home. Rosella will be waiting there for you."

     At that, the Ixi's ears drooped, and the corners of his mouth turned down. "No, she won't be there. She's not at home. A couple of days ago, Lord Kass came to our house to collect more taxes from her. He really meant it when he said she shouldn't yell at him. I was getting water from the well, and when I came back, I saw his monsters far away carrying her off."

     A pang of guilt caught Shard in the chest. It certainly wasn't a wonder why Evrit wanted to do battle with Kass's subordinates.

     "So," Evrit said, layering back on the cheerful veneer, "I wanted to ask you, but you left. When I got back, my mother refused to tell me who you were. Who are you, Korbat?"

     Shard hid his would-be wince. So much for his secrecy plan. "Okay, Evrit. I'll tell you. My name is Lord Darigan. At least I think I am, because that would explain so much... but... no!" He clawed at the sides of his head, wincing with frustration. Too much ambiguity. "I don't know who I am. Just call me Shard. Kass has to be stopped, Evrit. I'm going to the Dark Plane right now, and somehow I'm going to get up to the Citadel and defeat Kass." Evrit's eyes lit and his mouth opened with awe. "No, Evrit. I can barely hold my own let alone keep you safe. Please... just stay here."

     "But you won't have to worry about yourself so much, Shard! I can help protect you. It's not like I haven't before," the Ixi said, running his hoof along the edge of the scroll upon the ground. And like a rush, Shard recalled the night before, when the throng of Meridellians had charged at Shard, only to be kept at bay by a blinding light and a flash of some sort of energy.

     "That was...?" Shard let his sentence roll of as Evrit let out a gleeful guffaw. "Okay. Hold your own, and you can come. Be careful. The Dark Plane is as safe as a marrow in the jowl of the king, with as deft of a demise and surety of being crushed." Blinking, Shard tried to remember where the quote had come from. It felt as though he had said it many times over, yet couldn't recall saying it once, or even who the king of Meridell was.

     Casting aside his inquiries, Shard trudged across the stone-strewn ground, Evrit gamboling after him. If he can keep his mind on this, Shard thought, he'll might be able to be of some good. Evrit stepped aside to stick his snout in a wilting starflower. If...

     After a quarter of an hour, the landscape had changed dramatically. All life was soon gone, including the wilted grass and lifeless trees. Darkness had overcome the sky, along with a many clouds, each grey and swirling above the stone summits.

     Evrit's attitude had soon changed since their entrance. His jovial laughter and good-spirited comments died away, only to be replaced by timid curiosity. He watched with tremulous eyes as the two walked passed a suit of silver armour, tarnished, now let to rust. What remained of its former owner was unseen - Thankfully, Shard though, raising a brow in Evrit's direction -- but it could be supposed that it was a remnant from the first war, when Shard had attacked on Meridell.

     Lord Darigan, the Korbat corrected himself absentmindedly.

     "They see the armour..." whispered a voice from the shadows, cast by a stone hillock. "The green one is scared. He sees the armour, and fears for his mother... the white one, the one who has committed terrible deeds. That one, bringing war on my homeland..."

     The whispers stopped. Whoever had been speaking seemed to notice both Evrit and Shard casting stares around to see who had been whispering.

     "Shard," the Ixi whispered, the quaver in his voice obvious, "who's talking?"

     Before an answer could be given, out from the shadows walked a Draik, scaled blue with scarlet eyes. "Shard!" the Draik exclaimed, a large smile appearing on his face. "It's you! I haven't seen you in such a long time!"

     "Valrigard," Shard muttered. "If I recall correctly, it has been but hours, and you abandoned me to the mercy of the disgruntled Meridellians."

     Valrigard, not the least bit taken aback, let out a boisterous laugh that was much unlike himself. The Draik had acted quite mysterious back in the dungeon of Meridell Castle, saying things that had sent shivers down the Korbat's spine. "Oh, we can focus on the past, or we can look towards the future! You and your accomplice will not want to miss the chance of reaching the Citadel, would you?" As if to answer the question Shard was about to ask, the Draik added, "Why else would you possibly be in such a place? I could help you. I could fly you up to the Citadel, grant you access to a place that'd be otherwise forbidden."

     Shard eyed the Neopet suspiciously. The pet could not be trusted, for more than one reason, but it seemed that he had few other options. "What's in it for you?"

     "It's quite obvious, isn't it? Kass will be defeated, and the land I protected as the general of the Meridell army will be free!"

     "You made it sound as if you were a soldier, before, Valrigard. Not a general."

     Valrigard belted out another guffaw, one that seemed to echo throughout the wasteland. "Of course! But with the Eyrie defeated, who can say what this will mean for Meridell?"

     Evrit pulled Shard back towards a cliff wall, though Valrigard did not seem to mind. In fact, he did not seem to notice. He was sniffing the air as if he detected someone unpleasant in the Dark Plain.

     "Are you going to let him help us?" Evrit whispered hoarsely. "He was whispering weird things before."

     "It's odd, Evrit. This entire situation." Shard cast his gaze upon the Draik. "He seems so different than the Draik I met in Meridell, but... it was obvious that something wasn't right with his mind. I don't think he'll try to hurt us, even if his motivation isn't quite obvious. His muttering in the darkness certainly wasn't easing, I know, but I still don't think Valrigard is any harm. And with our lack of other choices, I'm afraid we'll have to trust him, Evrit."

     The Ixi nodded hesitantly, and stepped forward with Shard to the Draik, who turned his head to them. "Okay, Valrigard. You can help fly us to the Citadel. I'm warning you, though. If you repeat what you did back in Meridell, then you'll not escape from me again."

     Without saying anything, the Draik nodded his head, an excited smile appearing on it. After Shard and Evrit had taken several steps forward each, Valrigard took up shuffling after them, only bothering to gain any ground after the two had vanished behind another stone ridge.

The End

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