Darigan's Truce: Part Seven
Darigan reached down and gently lifted her head, looking
into her face. Tafindra shrank from his gaze but Darigan nonetheless saw what
the evil Blight had done; her eyes glowed red, her skin had withered and was thin
and dry as parchment, her complexion had darkened to an ugly purple. Her second
pair of ears was spiked and long like two whips, and a ridge of spines ran from
the base of her neck down to the tip of her reptilian tail. Yet in her ugliness
was still the vestige of a bewitching loveliness and naiveté, qualities that Morguss
had exploited well in her enchantments.
"Rise," he said to her at last, "you need have
no fear of me." She nodded, biting her lip, and retreated behind her mother
to hide in shadow. Darigan turned to Morguss again.
"Well? You have your daughter. Why do you seek
me? You could have easily escaped without my help." Morguss smirked knowingly.
"I bring a gift for my lord." So saying she withdrew
her hoof from her robe to show what she had concealed. There, glowing ominously,
were many smashed fragments of green glass. Broken as this object was, Darigan
instantly recognized it.
"Why, that is Kass' charm!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
"Hmmph, how perceptive," the sorceress muttered,
moving the pieces of glass about in her hoof as though counting them.
"But-I destroyed it. How did you get the pieces
"Draconis, please, give credit where credit
is due!" Morguss laughed. "I was the one who fashioned this piece, after all.
It would be an easy matter to summon the pieces again, even to perhaps - reassemble
them?" She glared up at her lord with a jaundiced eye, and Darigan felt a sudden
chill of fear.
"What good would it do you, Morguss? Kass is
dead; he is beyond your reach."
"Oh, is that so?" Morguss chuckled. "Perhaps,
in the literal sense, yes, he is dead. But he is not beyond my reach, not by
any means. Reassembling these pieces will give me a stronger connection to Kass'
spirit, and to the power that enslaved him."
"What-what power, Morguss?" The sorceress laughed
"Listen to him… 'what power?' he says! Have
you already forgotten those three who made you great, my lord?"
"The-the Three…" Darigan felt another chill.
He spoke now in a cold whisper. "But-why do you bring this to me?"
"As I said before, Draconis, I wish to make
a deal with you. I am aware that since your friend's… ah, untimely demise, you
desired to see him again, to make contact with him one last time. I can do that,
my lord. In fact, with the help of those Three, I might even be able to convince
them to bring Kass back permanently… but for a price."
"And what is that?"
"I am asking you for sanctuary. In return for
Kass' spirit, I demand sanctuary in the realm once again, for me and my daughter,
where none can touch us." Morguss smiled disgustingly. So? Do we have a deal?"
Darigan considered all she had said slowly,
deliberately in his mind. The shock of hearing about the Three again had made
him more open to Morguss' suggestions, but gradually, his reason prevailed.
He shook his head gravely.
"No, Morguss," he said coldly. "You have acted
traitorously in the last war, and I have seen the way you switch loyalty so
quickly when things don't go as you planned. No, I will not consider your proposal.
The punishment for treason is death."
Tafindra gasped. Morguss' eyes fairly burned
"How can you refuse me, Draconis, I who helped
you become great…"
"And helped Kass overthrow my authority?" Darigan's
voice echoed with his anger through the hall. "No, Morguss. The punishment for
treason is death - but my sentence is banishment, for I will be merciful even
to the unmerciful. Go far from the realm and never set foot in Darigan again.
But if you do, I will kill you. Leave."
Morguss' face twisted in sullen anger.
"How dare you!" she shouted, "how dare-!" but
her angry sneer suddenly changed to terror, for Darigan's eyes now glowed blood-red
in fury. Seized with passion he spread his wings violently to full length and
thundered with rage: "Go now, or never see the light of day again!!"
Morguss drew back and took hold of her daughter.
"This isn't over, Draconis," she hissed. "No one refuses me. I will find a way
to destroy you." There was a sudden, blinding flash of light, and Darigan cried
out and covered his eyes in pain. When he looked again, mother and child were
nowhere to be seen. Quiet reigned once again. Darigan stood motionless for some
time, breathing heavily and shaking with rage and fear, until his calm returned.
But he was not expecting-
"Mr. Scary?" The tiny questioning voice behind
him was like a single bell-chime, clear and bright in the shadows of his mind.
Darigan's wings lifted reflexively as he looked up in surprise; he had not expected
anyone to come wandering his way. At first he saw no one, but he knew that voice
"Sally?" he said quietly. "Where are you?"
"Here," came her reply. Little feet padded around
the corner until he saw Sally step uncertainly onto the terrace. She wore a
white cotton nightgown edged in lace and clutched a tattered Lupe plushie in
her right paw.
"What are you doing, Mr. Scary?" Her angelic
voice brought fresh tears to his eyes as he remembered his own daughter and
her innocent ways, now lost forever.
"Nothing, child," he said by way of reply, wiping
"You're crying!" Sally's astonished voice was
full of childlike sympathy for her friend. "Why?"
"Everyone cries sometimes, little one," Darigan
replied, his voice low and sad. "Even I. And I have had much to weep over."
He paused before facing her again. "But what are you doing here? You should
"Lost?" Darigan blinked, his luminous eyes briefly
disappearing into shadow before reappearing in a pupiless gaze.
"I woke up to get a drink of water, but now I
can't find my way back," she said, her voice touched with the childish fear
of things unseen in the night. Darigan's face softened in a paternal smile.
"Don't be afraid, little
one. I will lead you back." He held out his hand to her. "Follow me." Sally
quietly slipped her paw into Lord Darigan's hand, and his heart melted at the
gesture of complete trust. Holding her paw Darigan began to lead Sally back
the way they had come, but for a moment she held back. She had glimpsed the
full circle of the moon; her wide blue eyes held the light and reflected it,
and her mouth opened in a soft o of wonderment.
"Look, Mr. Scary," she said, pointing to the
moon. "Isn't it pretty?"
"Yes, indeed," Darigan replied. "I've been watching
it for a long time. Would you like to see it before you go back to bed?" Sally
nodded and Darigan gently lifted her in his arms so that she might better view
the fantastic night sky, feeling his sorrow diminish as he watched her stare
in childish delight at the innumerable stars.
"How many stars are there?" she asked.
"That, Sally, no one knows. There is a story
that my people tell to their children, of a young Pteri who wanted to count
the stars. Hundreds of them he counted each night, thousands, but still he had
not counted them all…" Darigan continued the familiar folk-tale until he realized
that Sally no longer seemed to be listening.
"Sally?" But she had already fallen asleep in
his arms, lulled by his calm voice that recounted the tale. Slowly, so as not
to disturb her slumbers, he turned from the night and carried her back through
the corridors to her room, unbeknownst to the dozing guard. Darigan quietly
entered the room to find Sally's parents lost in their own dreams, their breathing
even and calm as they slept, unaware that their child had ever awakened in the
night. Darigan tenderly placed Sally in her bed and tucked the covers about
her; she sighed and turned over in her sleep, still hugging the plushie to her
Sweet dreams, young one, Darigan thought,
hoping to reach her mind in dreams if not through words. May the faeries
watch over you. He left the room as silently as he had come and melted into
The next morning Skarl's guards entered the guest
chambers to awaken Darigan, but upon reaching the bed discovered that he was
no longer there. A mild uproar ensued at his absence until one of the guards
noticed a piece of parchment, covered with fine handwriting, pinned to the bed
sheets. It read as follows:
To the illustrious Lord of Meridell, His Majesty
I regret to inform you that a pressing matter
has called my attention back to my own kingdom for the duration of the truce
ceremonies. I cannot say when I will return, but I find it is impossible for
me to sign the official papers. However, I have left instructions for Master
Vex, my dungeon-keeper, to sign the truce papers in my name (for Vex is loyal
and I would trust him with my life) and for Captain Rhyf to act as a witness
for the kingdom of Darigan. Please do not think that Darigan is attempting to
back out of the truce; I would be more than happy to continue the ceremony myself
if I were only able to do so. However, I am convinced that my kingdom is threatened,
and my presence as a leader is required more than ever. All we desire more than
anything else is peace, and you must believe me when I say that I would not
leave without evidence of anything but the direst circumstances: I believe that
The Three, an evil force plaguing Neopia for centuries, is attempting to gain
strength and cause discord among our people once again. We must be ever vigilant
against these foes, your Majesty, or they will continue to plant the seeds of
distrust and corruption in our hearts, causing another war that would surely
destroy us both.
I remain your respectful fellow sovereign,
Signed, the Lord of Darigan, Master of his Citadel
P.S.: I was unable to bring your charming little
Gallion with me on such short notice. While I would have been happy to keep
the pet, I leave him in the care of Sally, the Usul child staying as a guest
in your castle. She would be very happy to take care of him; please let her
know of my gift to her.
As Skarl read this note over his second breakfast
that morning, a cold chill swept over him and a frown darkened his brow.
"Shall I call out a guard to see if Darigan is
truly gone back to his Citadel?" asked the Draik who had brought him the note.
Staring into middle distance foggily, Skarl waved him away with his hand.
"No," he said faintly. "Lord Darigan is a ruler
of his word. I believe what he has written here. Send for Vex and Rhyf; they
shall sign the papers in his name."
The Draik bowed left his lord. Skarl continued
to sit unmoving, a stunned look on his jowly face.
"The Three," he whispered to himself. "I should
have known. They spoke to me too, once…" He stared out of the window that opened
upon a section of the royal gardens, and his eye fell upon a particular spot
where the gardener had planted the purple vine-rose of Darigan. To his surprise,
the ugly thorny vine had blossomed overnight into a cascade of large, intricate
violet flowers that swayed peacefully in the breeze. The ancient stock of this
rose was indeed uncorrupted by any blight, and now was its time to put forth
its rare bloom.
"I won't let you down, Lord of Darigan," Skarl
said, gazing from his window at the beautiful rose tree. "Never again will I
allow myself to be corrupted, as we both were, long ago.
"Here's to our peace."