NEOPIA CENTRAL - War broke out this morning at the breakfast table.
"Lord Darigan attacked Meridell!" Dafydd shouted, slamming a paw down on the
table, almost knocking over the milk. "Regardless of King Skarl's possible indiscretions,
the people of Meridell have the right to defend themselves!"
"That's right! It wasn't the Ixi's fault!" agreed Rinlossiel, echoing what
seems to be the rallying cry for Meridell's supporters. Although I had to admit,
Rinlossiel had a more personal stake in this, being an Ixi from Meridell herself.
Stevie, normally a very polite and even-tempered Kacheek, had lost his patience
by this point. "All I'm trying to say is, Lord Darigan's people are suffering
because of Skarl's greed! It's THEIR orb, Skarl stole it, they just want what's
Bella, keeping out of it as usual, asked me to pass some omelette.
These days, war is the dominant theme in Neopia. We're inundated with reports
from the front, casualty lists, rumours, accusations, and boasting from both
sides of the fence. In the Times, in the Marketplace, everywhere you go, you
meet someone who wants to know where you stand: with Meridell, or with Darigan?
The question is beginning to divide neighbours, long-time friends, and--if our
household is any indication--families.
When the war broke out, my Lupe, DaffyddFive, immediately decided which side
he wanted to join. I sent him off to battle, proud but worried. He's come home
with injuries, but overall he's done well for a not-very-strong pet who doesn't
have powerful weaponry. Against my better judgement, I allowed Rinlossiel to
fight once (she begged so hard to fight for her homeland I couldn't turn her
down) and she limped home with a Drackonack still chewing on her hind leg. Stevie
doesn't have any pretensions of being a warrior, but he supported his foster-brother
Dafydd until reports came in that King Skarl stole a mysterious orb that rightfully
belongs to Lord Darigan--and now Darigan wants it back. This piqued Stevie's
sense of fair play, and ever since then, tensions have run high in our home.
"And what are you doing, fighting for Meridell anyway?" Stevie continued.
"You're not even from there."
Dafydd's white ruff of fur rose up on the back of his neck, and he bared sharp
fangs. "I will fight to defend the innocent from evil."
"How do you know Meridell's good and the Darigans are evil? Just because they're
cute and the Darigans aren't? You might as well accuse Bella here of being evil!"
Silence fell around the table as Stevie realised that was way out of line.
The others looked embarrassed, too. As Bella glanced up from her omelette, Stevie
muttered an apology.
"But," he added, "how do you feel about this whole thing? Who's in the right,
Meridell or Darigan?"
The room itself seemed to vibrate with anticipation as the silence stretched,
and we waited for her response. She looked at each of us in turn, her large
yellow eyes inscrutable. Finally she took a deep breath.
"I hate to say this, but somebody has to. I think you're all being complete
idiots. Even you, RogueWolf," she added apologetically, looking straight at
The other three immediately rose up in a chorus of outrage. I looked into
Bella's sad yellow eyes, and the protest I'd had ready died in my throat.
Bella has a unique perspective in our household. Her sweet and gentle nature
hides a very strong heart and a determination to do and say what she thinks
is right--not follow the crowd. As a Halloween Kougra, Bella sometimes encounters
prejudice because of her oversized fangs, prominent claws, and splendid bat
wings. Some people find her name disturbing as well: bella morte, beautiful
death. Her housemates are more stereotypically "cute" pets and so, perhaps,
have less experience seeing things from an outsider's perspective. She openly
admits she's not the smartest pet, but she does try to think things through
from all angles. And when she gives a strong opinion, it's worth taking seriously.
"Think about it," Bella continued, silencing each of them in turn with a look.
"You're at each others' throats about which side is right. But how do you know
which one is telling the truth? Skarl could be lying, or Darigan, or both. Historically,
many rulers have used lies and misdirection to convince their people that THOSE
guys over there are a blot on the face of the world and need to be obliterated.
But when it's all over, the underlying cause of the war usually turns out to
be greed. Money. Personal gain."
"It's not GREED if you're starving and need to eat," Stevie said.
"I've battled the Darigans, and they don't look starved to me," Dafydd replied.
"Again, how do you know they're starving?" Bella insisted. "And if they are,
how do you know it's a real famine? Lord Darigan is supposed to be some kind
of sorcerer. I bet he could cause a famine and blame it on Meridell."
"I wouldn't put it past him," Rinlossiel said.
"And as for Skarl," Bella said, looking at the Ixi, "how do we know this orb
does what he claims? Maybe it just makes unlimited riches. Maybe it has nothing
to do with the welfare of the land itself."
"That Skarl is a shifty-looking fellow if you ask me," Stevie commented.
"Now who's judging by appearances?" Rinlossiel snapped.
"Shhh," I interrupted. "Let Bella have her say."
"My point is, there's no use debating which side is right or wrong. The fact
is they've both come to blows over it, turning to violent means as the answer,
and that's always wrong."
"Sometimes you have to take a stand," Dafydd said, raising his chin.
"Taking a stand is well and good," Bella said. "But why are you fighting?
Why are Neopians from all over choosing sides in this war? I know both rulers
are offering bounties to anyone who will help them. How many Neopians would
fight for Meridell or Darigan if there was absolutely no compensation? Would
you still fight, Dafydd?"
Some of the confidence faded from Dafydd's eyes a bit.
"I'm trying to help out RogueWolf. I'm trying to bring in a bit of money--"
"Then you're no better than a mercenary, for all your blather about right
and wrong. I'm sorry, I don't like saying it that way, but that's exactly how
I see it."
She looked at me again.
"RogueWolf, you promised last week you'd buy us all books and treat us to
a really good meal. Let's face it, the omelettes are getting pretty old. But
then Dafydd's Ancient Lupe Wand broke, and you HAD to get a new one immediately.
The money went to that instead of our books and food. When this is over, I tell
you, the only people who benefit significantly will be the big merchants and
the mercenaries with hundreds of kills. You can see that coming already, with
the ridiculous inflation on codestones, weaponry, and healing potions. But a
lower middle class family like us, we're not going to be stronger or smarter--or,
I expect, much richer. The people who will suffer the most though, are the Darigans
and the citizens of Meridell."
"What are we supposed to do?" Rinlossiel demanded, her eyes furious. "Let
Darigan roll right over us? Crush us? Just sit around a campfire and sing 'Kumbaya'
while the hordes of Darigan tear us limb from limb?"
"I never said peace is the easy route," Bella answered. "It takes a lot more
commitment and inner strength than war does. But like the old saying goes....what
if they gave a war, and nobody showed up?"
We were all silent, considering the implications of that, and Bella went on.
"I realise it seems horribly Utopian. But what if, instead of sounding the
call for a volunteer army, Skarl had told the Darigans, 'Meridell's bounty will
be shared. We have fields and pastures, food and fresh water to spare, and we
welcome you to live here in peace.' That would cut Darigan's excuse to fight
right out from under him. Why fight when what you need is offered freely?"
"Maybe because the Darigans are downright evil," Dafydd replied, and Rinlossiel
"That's possible," Bella admitted. "I think what passes for evil much of the
time in this world is born of misery. And if the Darigans are miserable...well,
if Skarl could show them a better way of life, it might get them thinking about
their own leader, how he treats them. I could be wrong. But it seems to me that
there's never been a war that really ended the issue to anything. Wars only
leave behind anger and pain and resentment...which, all too often, revisit us
a few years down the line."
"Sometimes war is the only choice," Rinlossiel insisted, sullen now.
"Do you say that because you believe it? Or because you can't think of other
options...or maybe you can, and they seem too difficult."
One by one, each pet left the table, subdued and thoughtful. Dafydd was the
last to get up; he looked at me with sad, apologetic eyes. I knew he would go
to the front again. And I would strive to get him the weapons and training and
healing potions he needed, because I couldn't bear let him go fight without
the best preparation I could give. But Bella's question stayed with me.
What if they gave a war and nobody came? Is it possible, just possible, that
we'd all be better off? I don't know. And human nature being what it is, I don't
think anyone will give peace a serious chance. And even if they did, human nature
being what it is, the pacifists would probably be overrun and crushed in five
seconds, if not sooner. One thing I believe, as firmly as Bella holds her pacifist
beliefs, is that for peace to work, both sides have to be committed to it.
How do you win your enemy to your side, when he's been told that you're evil,
that you wish him nothing but harm, and you would destroy him at the first opportunity?
It can't be by making war on him.