DARIGAN - As I write this, the waves of attackers in the Darigan vs. Meridell
war are becoming ever stronger. Meridell's crumbling lead has forced King Skarl
himself to take the field in defence of his kingdom. The tightening of the Darigan
noose is continuing, and the once proud nation of Meridell shudders ever closer
to the brink of disaster. How did this happen?
I mentioned in my
previous article that Darigan had stronger opponents in some of the
new waves. While this is true, and while it certainly had a definite influence,
there is one huge reason that I did not bring up last time. Meridell's troubles
in all of this are in another rule of the game altogether.
The answer can be found in one word: defection. The defection option offered
by the Neopets team is their most powerful weapon in the effort to even up the
two sides. Why defect? While it's possible that you just simply changed your
mind about who is right, there is a very practical reason for anyone to defect:
your score. As you fight your opponents, you make them stronger. Soon, you reach
the limits of your strength and your score. Now what? You're out of the
war. Not quite! By defecting, you lose some of your points, but you have the
chance to gain as many or maybe more back as you originally had. You get a totally
new set of opponents to beat! Defection could well let you double the amount
of points that you have. Of course, it all goes to the other side, but so what?
If you can't be good, then be good at it! Since Meridell apparently got about
three quarters of the original recruits, and since you can only defect once,
it's easy to see who winds up better off under such a scheme.
But enough about the manipulation in the rules of the game. Let's return to
the storyline and examine some of the questions and ideas about what is really
happening behind the scenes. I touched on this in my last article when I talked
about the orb and its effects, and the flood of Neomail
led to several interesting conversations with readers. What I present to you
now comes largely from the feedback and exchange of ideas that I had with them.
The root cause of all of this is the orb, so it is fitting that we start our
analysis with it. My first article mentioned that although the orb was said
to have a good effect, its absence led to such disaster that it was suspicious.
I mentioned the idea that there could be another evil force out there that was
being held at bay by it. (I was not the first to think of this, or even the
first to mention it.) Another theory holds that the evil comes from the orb
itself. Either there is a hidden evil in it that we've not been told of, or
the good that it generates comes at a cost. The cost would be that the prosperity
is "pulled" from some other place or time--for example, from Darigan into Meridell,
or from a future which grows ever more miserable into a prosperous present which
will soon become ever more illusory. Any way you look at it, I have to agree
with the reader who called it a powerful and dangerous artifact.
Another source of suspicion in all this is the Kyrii seer. He evidently knew
enough to send the knights of Meridell off to steal the orb, but he never bothered
to tell them what would happen to Darigan--and eventually them--if they did
so. Since he knew about the good, it's only reasonable to ask if he didn't know
about the bad as well. It could be that he deliberately set this whole thing
up for some as yet hidden motive of his own.
And then there is Dr. Sloth. Neopia's most ubiquitous arch-criminal, without
whom no true evil plot can be contemplated, has been noticeably and suspiciously
absent in all of this so far. One blunt Neomail stated that this whole war is
simply a plot of his to take both kingdoms for himself. Let them weaken each
other in mutual warfare, and Sloth will be able to pick up the pieces. Before
you discard this as total nonsense, I might also add that a user with the name
of "Lord Sloth" complimented me on my article. When Sloth compliments you, it's
a good time to watch your back!
So what happens next? Whatever it is, it won't be long. In fact, by the time
this comes out, we may well already know. If so, the speculations here of what
may be will be speculations of what might have been. Hopefully they will prove
equally interesting in either case!
First, who will win, and what is winning? Remember, the prize in all this
is the orb. It is possible, as one reader pointed out, that Darigan could lose
the "official war" and still win by using stealth to steal the orb rather than
by military domination. From their viewpoint, it would only be an appropriate
payback since it was stolen from them in the first place. This leaves Meridell
with no orb, and not much of a future. They could defeat the Darigan monsters
and still face a monstrous end of their own simply because they've lost the
orb, just like Darigan did.
Perhaps we will find out that there has been a lot of lying and deceit going
on - even more so than we suspect now. After all, Lord Darigan seems to love
the shadows. Just who or what is he and his forces... really? Could the whole
thing be an elaborate hoax? Call this one the "masked evil" theory.
Another possible outcome is represented by the "third party" theory, as personified
by Dr. Sloth. Sloth (or some other evil force) comes onto the scene, intent
on taking over both kingdoms for themselves. Meridell and Darigan must unite
forces to face this new foe, and after defeating it come to terms between themselves.
The nice part about this is that the war hawks get two wars for the price of
one--first, Darigan vs. Meridell, then Meridell & Darigan vs. the true evil
plotter behind the first conflict between them.
If the idea of these two bitterly opposed sides kissing and making up seems
unlikely, here is another possibility. As you'll recall, the orb brings prosperity
to whoever owns it. It's reach and influence are not defined by physical limits
such as square miles. First, Lord Darigan owns it, and it brings prosperity
to him and to all he owns--his kingdom. Then King Skarl owns it, and it does
the same for him and his kingdom. It would be unlikely that the two kingdoms
were of the same size. It's obvious that whoever owns it receives the benefit
for themselves and all that they own. Therefore, what happens when one
side crushes the other, takes the orb, and then claims their defeated enemies
as their own vassals? You now have one united kingdom controlled by a ruler
who has the orb! Instant doubling of the orb's sphere of influence for good
would be the logical outcome of this situation.
Of course, we could face the simple outcome of "one side wins, takes the orb,
and becomes prosperous, while the other becomes (or remains) horrible evil mutants."
But the hints in this plot show that with a bit of imagination, this first layer
of story could easily be only the prelude for the real truth that has been manipulating
both sides all along.
As for what the "real truth" might be, we can only speculate. Who knows? It
might be the man in black....