It was cold and lonely in the castle that night…
Ever since I discovered Meridell, it's always
felt like home. Maybe it's because I found my big brother here. Maybe it's because
everyone's been so kind to me. I've always been welcome here. I've always been
surrounded by people, laughing and chatting and joking. I have never known such
silence here, not since I was reunited with Jeran. But the castle seems dead
now, as if all life has been snuffed out. The dark shadow of the Citadel looms
over us all, and a depression lies heavy upon us.
When Darigan declared war, it was a shock. I
was no warrior: I was a student, a young Aisha, lost and far from home. Suddenly,
I was a little girl, caught up in a war I didn't understand. Jeran was strong,
but he couldn't protect me from everything. There were evil forces at work,
shadowy monsters who I glimpsed in my dreams. I was scared and many times I
felt my courage would falter. I heard the screams at night, and knew the horrors
of war. I had to learn to fight, and use magic, in order to survive. But we
won out. Meridell was nigh near destroyed, ripped apart by the constant battling,
ruined and torn asunder. We recovered, we restored it and there was peace once
more. And the land flourished again, thanks to the efforts and bravery of its
I don't know why, but I never feared for Jeran
then. He was invincible, unconquerable. It never even occurred to me to be scared
for him. He barely sustained a scratch in that war. He had grown up so much
since I lost him in the woods so many years ago. In Meridell, he was tough and
fierce and I felt more pity for the people of Darigan who would be facing him.
I did not worry, or presume he could be hurt. My brother –– a pillar of strength,
a guardian of the weak and the Champion of Meridell.
This war is different. People are cold and joyless.
There is no laughing or joking here anymore. Since the Court Dancer entranced
the castle, no one even dares to dance, or sing. It seems like entertainment
is forbidden, banished, and the world becomes increasingly grey. Joy has faded
from life, thus making life seem barely worth the struggle. The price of this
war will be dearer than the last, methinks. Already, we have struggled through
too many darkest hours. Already, too much has been lost and wagered. And once
gone, it can never be replaced. I have become embittered and toughened –– my
innocence was taken young. And the people fear the lengthening power of Kass,
and the sharp swords of his army.
Yet, even in the depths of despair, Jeran had
a plan, of course. He always does. I'm so proud of him, and what he's done here.
Who would have thought my big brother would grow up to defend a country, to
fight for good against evil? I wish I could have hugged him one last time before
he left. In all the rush, I never even had the chance. And I regret it now.
Because this time…This time…I'm scared. The war is not going our way: our defences
are weak, our forces overwhelmed. My brother's face was grim. And the look in
his eyes as he left made me fear for him. It makes me doubt my conviction in
the dominance of good. Life is no story book: maybe this time, evil will win.
But I am selfish. Even if the shadows take us all, even if Meridell is destroyed…please,
let my brother be safe. Please, just let him come back, so I can hug him one
Jeran hasn't always been there for me. It sounds
like a betrayal, but it's not. When he fell into Meridell, and vanished from
my world, I was alone. I would cry myself to sleep at night, hurting from my
loss. When the bullies picked on me in the playground, when I fell off my bike
and hurt my knee, he wasn't there. He was here. Sometimes, I get jealous. Was
Meridell more important to him than me? Why did he spend his time becoming a
champion here, instead of defending me at home? Why did he never seek to come
back? But that is just foolish nonsense of mine. He couldn't have come back
for me, no matter how much he may have wanted to.
But now, Jeran has always protected me, and
my friends. We've all helped in the war: I broke the Court Dancer's spell; Kayla
mixed up her potions; Morris and Boris became knights of the realm. Our destinies
are entangled with Meridell's: I swore my allegiance to this land for as long
as I live. If Meridell falls, I will be one of the last standing, protecting
my home with every last breath I have. And it might yet come to that, if Jeran
To dwell on such grim thoughts is to provoke
them, however. Perhaps that's what brought on my dream last night…
In my dream, I saw Jeran fall. I shudder still
to think of it. I saw his struggling body plummet through the air from the tallest
tower in the Citadel, breaking through the clouds to plunge to the land below.
I saw Kass, his cruel beak twisted in mocking laughter, as my brother fell,
finally defeated. I saw his friends and companions-at-arms watch him destroyed,
powerless to help. I cried out to him then, tried to embrace him. But I was
but a ghostly spirit and he fell through my arms, fell through and down... I
was overcome by grief and guilt –– I should have been there, protected him,
saved him, hugged him one last time…
When I woke up, I was shivering, and cold. Tears
had run down my cheeks in the night, my throat dry and my heart numb. My thoughts
went immediately to Jeran, out there somewhere in the night, fighting and battling
against innumerable enemies. With odds like that, what hope was there left?
Only the hope I held close to my heart, that he would be alive come daybreak.
I wandered over to the window of my room, my
coverlet clutched tightly about me. Looking up at the infinite starry sky, I
saw the ominous silhouette of the Citadel, outlined against the clouds. But
right above it, the brightest star in the whole sky shined. Perhaps it was just
the proximity of the dark Citadel that made its light seem so strong, but it
gave me hope. The star reminded me of the Ultranova on my wand –– that has seen
me through many a battle against the darkness. Sometimes, light shines brightest
when all we can see is the dark. Upon that star, I made a wish: I wished for
my dreams not to come true.
Better to have loved and lost, then ne'er
loved at all.
But I would have given anything not to feel this
pain and worry inside, to stop these tears, born of love, from sliding down my
cheeks. I would give every one of life's pleasures to stop feeling this emotion,
to be hollow and empty inside. I would have my soul stolen away, rather than my
heart wrenched in two. And I would have nothing at all, to give you everything…Jeran.