White Weewoos don't exist. *shifty eyes* Circulation: 106,486,787 Issue: 212 | 14th day of Collecting, Y7
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Midnight over Meridell: Part Four

by ratling_guardian


Part IV: Drow

It was midnight, the next day. At least, it was midnight - I had lost track of time due to the constant night. We were getting ready to locate the Shadow Palace, and my pets and I were at the inn, where everybody was still asleep. We had packed what we thought we'd need - that is, Eralta had her Battledome set at the ready, and BUREUNIKONE had various healing scrolls, potions and other magical items at his hooftips.

      "We all ready?" I asked nervously, and my pets nodded. "Okay, let's move…"

      We left the room, and proceeded upstairs. We strode across the deserted lobby, and out the front doors, where Triy and Luun were standing guard. The shadows had gone, but Mutant pets still roamed freely around the cobbled roads and houses.

      "Come on," said Luun, "and stay alert," she added, drawing her wand. Triy unsheathed two long blades, and I myself conjured up a double-ended blade. Triy looked at it with interest.

      "What is that?" he asked.

      "This?" I said, "Oh, it's a, um, uh…"

      My voice trailed off into nothingness.

      "You didn't answer my question, you just trailed off," he said.

      "Um, yeah, I did, didn't I," I said, looking away.

      "So could you please answer it?" he asked politely.

      "I dunno what it is, I just conjured it to defend myself with," I told him, shrugging.

      "Well, it looks like it could do some serious damage," he said, inspecting it more thoroughly. "May I?"

      I handed him the blade. He placed one of his swords back in its sheath and tried a few different cutting movements with the double-blade, finally doing a spectacular forward flip in mid-air and bringing the blade down with full force so that it landed millimetres from Alkarasydes' face, who squeaked in terror and dashed behind me.

      "Thanks," he said casually, handing the blade back and re-applying his swords. "That thing has good control."

      "Does it?" I said, trying to sound interested - unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea about swords or anything along those lines, and only nodded and said 'Mmm' as Triy went into a long explanation about all the swords he had ever used, different models, strengths and weaknesses about different crafters, and finally guessed that I didn't know much about them when I told him I hadn't tried eight different swords which he claimed were very popular, cheap and durable.

      "Are you even a skilled swordsman?" he asked, frowning with one eyebrow.

      "Uh, well, I can do this," I said, doing a strange spinning slash which resulted in me falling flat on my face. Triy stared.

      "I see…" he said slowly after a few seconds as I picked myself up.

      "Yes, um," I said sheepishly, looking away.

      "Is it me," interrupted Luun, "or has it suddenly gone very dark?"

      "It is very dark," Triy said sarcastically, "it's night!"

      "Very dark meaning darker than normal," she said acidly. Sure enough, we were only on the outskirts of Meridell, yet we could only see about twenty metres into each direction.

      "Arm yourselves," Triy said suddenly, his tone completely serious now - almost aggressive. Eralta drew her weapons confidently, and I conjured up several different weapons for my other pets, but it was with caution that I held mine at chest height. What was causing the sudden, thicker darkness? My answer came swooping out of the darkness to meet me. I screamed and dived to the ground, and it flew over me, arcing hugely and preparing for another attack at me. The glimpse I caught of it analysed itself in my brain - a flying wolf with a scorpion's tail. Fortunately, Luun blasted it with some Arcane magic from her wand, and it fell to the ground with a howl. A second later, it disintegrated into what looked like black beads, except that they formed a puddle on the ground.

      "Everybody, keep an eye out!" Triy yelled, charging towards two more of the beasts which came zooming out of the darkness, "They're Chaos Lupes! Don't let the tail get you, or you'll be in immeasurable trouble- that poison is strong!"

      I didn't need telling twice. A second Lupe was making its run at me, and I swung my sword wildly, more to protect myself rather than take it down. It veered off to my right and came around for a second strike. This time I collected myself, catching it with my blade across its chest. It fell to the ground and like the last one, disintegrated into black beads.

      "Why do these things turn into beads?" I yelled over the shouting, slashing, bangs and other hardcore battle-type noises.

      "They don't!" Triy yelled back, "That's darkness! Don't let it touch you, or you'll undoubtedly get hurt!"

      Curious about this, I hurled my blade at an oncoming Lupe. It fell to the ground like the last, but this time, I prodded the puddle of darkness. It burned my finger like acid! With a yelp of pain, I yanked it out, but not before the darkness could take effect - it was spreading over my fingertip like a parasite. I shook it like mad, trying to get it off, but it fastened itself there, like the tip of a black glove. Before I could re-enter the battle, however, a huge blow caught me over the head and I fell to the ground and felt all the air get knocked out of my lungs. Furthermore, a lump that was the size of half a chicken egg suddenly sprouted where I was hit. Looking up dazedly through the stars that had appeared in my eyes, I saw a Lupe land in front of me, licking its lips greedily. Clearly, they weren't the smartest of creatures, because even the most amateur warrior knows not to sit still for more than a second, and this hopelessly stupid warrior was hit in the face by a splatter of Florbix. A second later, Eralta pounced on it and took it down with her Sinsi's Sword.

      "That's for hitting my Daddy!" she screamed at the puddle of darkness.

      "Thanks," I gasped gratefully, picking up my sword-like blade.

      "Here, use this," she said, tossing me a Healing Potion, "BUREUNIKONE saw what happened and told me to give this to you."

      "Thanks," I repeated and downed the Potion in one gulp. Instantly, my energy and air returned to my body and lungs, respectively, and I felt an odd sensation at the back of my head, as though somebody was giving it a high-speed massage. I felt there, and the lump had sunk back into my head. I glanced around - the battle was certainly going well, as the Lupes (the smarter ones, at least) were running or flying off into the darkness, their scorpion tails whipping out of sight. Triy and Luun were subduing the stupider ones. As soon as the last one dissolved into a puddle of darkness, the 'heavier' night lifted and we could see a bit further.

      "Hey, guys," I said, noticing that the blob of darkness hadn't removed itself from my fingertip, "what is this?"

      Triy walked over and growled.

      "You touched the darkness, didn't you?" he demanded.

      "Uh, yeah, just to see what-" I began.

      "Do you have any idea what this can do to you?" he snarled, grabbing my finger and waving it front of my face.

      "No," I said meekly.

      "Well, neither do I, but it's probably bad!" he ranted, dropping my finger and storming away.

      "He doesn't like not being listened to," Luun muttered to me quietly.

      "Ah," I said vaguely, distracted by my fingertip, "what does this stuff do, anyway?" I added.

      "Oh, that," she said darkly, staring at the darkness coating, "it's a sort of essence of Darkness itself, it basically fixates itself to an organic being and begins to mutate it. If the being is too 'good', or rather, follows too much in the way of Light, it merely burns them, but cannot stick. The mutation generally occurs after a few hours."

      "What sort of mutation?" I asked nervously.

      "Well, it varies," she said, shrugging, as Triy motioned for us to follow him, "for instance, where it's been placed, what amount, that sort of thing. Considering the amount on your fingertip, it'll probably just make your fingernail turn into a talon or claw, or something like that."

      "I wouldn't mind that," I said fairly, wagging my finger as though the talon would suddenly sprout from the coating.

      "Oh, believe me, you will," she said, her face glowering, "most darkness mutations are assets, really give you an interesting advantage in combat, or everyday life, but some are really awful, and after enough of them, you fall to Darkness itself, and then there's no turning back. Look at this…"

      She pulled the sleeve back off her robe. I stifled a gasp. Beneath it, instead of a scaly Draik arm, was a withered and rotting arm instead. It glistened slightly, as though covered in some liquid, and it smelt something rancid.

      "One day I was fighting some of those Lupes in the woods near Illusen's Glade," she explained, shaking her withered arm so that the sleeve fell over it again, "and one of them stung me on that arm with its tail. I used my magic, and that slowed the effects. I managed to get to Illusen before the real damage set in, and she managed to cure the worst of it, and I was left with that. Triy was furious, I've never seen him so angry before, I expect that's why he doesn't like people messing with Darkness…"

      Her voice trailed away thoughtfully.

      "Anyway," she continued abruptly, "that's basically what can happen to you if you mess with Darkness."

      I nodded, the picture of her arm still vivid in my mind's eye. The mere thought of that happening to me, or (I shuddered) one of my pets, was worse than horrific. If that happened to Eralta, or Opessenc, or the other two… well, I would hardly be able to bear it, to say the least. I was so worried about that happening to my pets that I barely noticed that we were out of the rolling plains and deep forests, but entering a rocky mountainous area.

      "Okay, watch your footing here," Triy warned, "Undoubtedly, wrong footing will cost you a limb, or worse."

      We began to follow a thin and winding path around the side of the mountain. Looking up, I saw the moon hovered directly above the tip, but the light appeared purple on the sides.

      "I suppose that the castle is at the top?" I asked.

      "Naturally," Luun replied.

      "Figures," I muttered. We continued to follow the winding path, which, either just to spite us or to be a cliché, was getting thinner and thinner. Twice my pets nearly fell to a sudden end to our adventure, but I noticed by the way that they screamed and with Triy and Luun's help, we managed to prevent that fate. About a quarter of the way up, we stopped as Opessenc, gasping for breath, forced a break out of us.

      "So, we have to handle this for another however many hours times three?" BUREUNIKONE asked irritably, massaging his hooves.

      "Yes, about that," Luun said, waving her wand and conjuring up several Healing Potions, and handing them out.

      "What about it?" I asked.

      "No, I was saying it's about that amount of time," she said, now conjuring up a few loaves of bread and sticks of butter. "Eat, it'll help you up," she added, buttering herself a piece of bread with one of her brother's knives.

      "Any idea what we're up against?" Alkarasydes asked through a mouthful of bread.

      "Unknown," Triy said, downing half a Healing Potion, "but I have a few hunches. Surely there's gonna be a bunch of those Chaos Lupes, and a wide variety of other Dark creatures and beings. I once read something about these things called Shadowed Faeries; it might be those Faeries you told us about. And of course, whoever is causing all of this," he finished.

      "Well, I don't fancy going up against some Darkness thing that caused all this," Eralta said, glancing up at the moon.

      "Oh, don't worry, Luun and I will do that," Triy said consolingly, "it's up to you five to, uh… what do they have to do?" he asked his sister uncertainly. She paused before answering.

      "We'll figure it out when we get there," she replied.

      "Well, that's not much use!" I said, louder than necessary, "I've learnt over the years that if you don't plan things before-"

      I failed to continue, because it felt as though something large had lodged itself in my throat, preventing speech but allowing inhalation. Glancing to my left, I saw Luun casually flicking her wand back into her robes.

      "Sorry, I'm not much of a talker when it comes to foreign conversation," she said, chewing a mouthful of bread, "I've learnt just to give it a shot and if it doesn't work, tough."

      I tried to convince her otherwise, but the invisible thing was still lodged in my throat, so I merely contented myself with a disbelieving headshake. She didn't see it, however.

      When we finished our Potions and loaves of bread, we got up and returned to proceeding up the winding path. After an uncountable amount of time in which we received many complaints from my pets, we arrived, gasping for breath, on a landing. Before us was a castle, much like Meridell Castle, yet bigger, and the fact that shadows were swirling around it set it rather apart from its Meridell counterpart. I looked up, and saw, above the highest tower and silhouetted against the full moon, a humanoid figure with a long tail, batlike wings protruding from its back.

      "What is that," I whispered to Luun, who was staring, wide eyed at the thing.

      "No," she said hoarsely, "it can't be…"

      "What is it?" I asked urgently, but she just mouthed silently under her breath. I looked back up at the thing, and it gave a mad cackle of laughter that sent shivers rippling down my spine. A second later, it soared towards us at blinding speed! We all yelled and ducked, and the thing, whatever it was, landed in front of us, its eyes glinting madly. Closer inspection revealed it to bear resemblance to a Lupe, yet this one was horribly disfigured. Some huge mutation had undergone it, and it now was more rather like a demon of some sort rather than a Neopet.

      "Welcome!" it hissed eagerly, yet it didn't move its mouth. "I see some more adventurers have come to their demise!"

      He snapped his fingers, and instantly we were raised into the air. I tried to struggle; yet some invisible bonds had bound themselves around me, pulling my arms to my side. The Lupe laughed wildly as he watched us try and free ourselves.

      "Who are you?" Triy shouted over the Lupe's laughing.

      "I am Drow!" he said, clapping his hands so that Triy flew through the air and landed on the ground. Evidently the bonds were released, as he leapt to his feet and drew his swords.

      "What do you want from us?!" Luun shouted, her eyes on her brother.

      "Oh, nothing really," the demon said casually, flinging one hand down. A lightning bolt struck Luun, but something about her magical physique must have deflected it. "You're all too weak to be an addition to my army."

      He flicked his hand towards Triy, who was sneaking up on him, and he rose up into the air and crashed to the ground a second time.

      "Stop!" screamed Luun, struggling worse than ever. A second later, there was a flash of light and she fell to the ground. She hurried over to her brother. Drow laughed softly.

      "You can't save him, fool," he said quietly. Next second, his eyes glowed a deep red, and flames burst around Triy and Luun, and the distant sky seemed to be on fire! The clouds turned into curling wads of smoke, the moon was lost in a firestorm, and the earth itself glowed with the heat. And when Drow spoke, it was not in his mocking voice, but a quiet and echoing, chilling screech.

      "You do not understand the power of Darkness," he said. "There is more to it than you would ever know, and even though you stopped us once before, we shall take back what was ours. Aldaria will fall to the Shadow Realm, and we shall take this land with it!"

      With that, he threw his arms into the air. We flew upwards, over the side of the mountain, and plunged, screaming, to the ground.

To be continued…

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Other Episodes

» Midnight over Meridell: Part One
» Midnight over Meridell: Part Two
» Midnight over Meridell: Part Three

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