Before the Dance
She sat beside the window of their simple cottage overlooking
the kingdom of Meridell way down below. The young Darigan Aisha of sixteen summers
lived with her mother, not very far from what used to be the domain of their past
leader Lord Darigan, who disappeared and was never heard from again. This was
the time for Lord Kass to shine, perhaps even outshine their old boss.
Meanwhile, this particular Aisha character pushed
her long, parted amber-colored hair away from her pretty face, revealing two
scarlet eyes that blinked in the dim light of the Darigan Citadel. She was in
a simple beige dress topped off with a red vest, an orange sash and a glowing
purple amethyst strung upon a delicate gold beaded chain. Emerald spheres dangled
from her extra pair of ears. At her left paw was a tambourine, which she tapped
every now and then and jiggled the shiny jingly bits. Oh, how she loved music!
Her joy in life was dancing, closely followed by unleashing the magic of the
sound of her tambourine.
What was her name? Very few even knew who she
was, despite being the daughter of a famous witch called Morguss. But the precious
handful did know that she was often fondly called Callista. The main reason
why barely anyone recognized her was that she barely walked out of the house,
preferring to stay inside. Especially now that Lord Kass had taken over. The
Aisha was not very fond of the power-hungry Eyrie, despite the tales that told
of his undying determination to seize Meridell. For some strange reason, she
sensed that something was wrong about him - very wrong indeed.
Still, despite her recurring visions of the Citadel
falling - well, not falling literally - not even her mother would believe her.
So it was, when the hooded Moehog came knocking at the door of her bedroom.
"Callista, are you in here?"
Her head turned from the window (where she had
surveyed a silly vegetable seller run after a rolling turnip down the gnarled
path of Abhor Avenue) and towards the sound of Morguss' voice.
"Yes, Mother. What do you want from me?" The
Darigan Aisha crossed the room and opened the door. In walked the Moehog without
batting another eye at her daughter. She clutched a large dusty spellbook and
dropped it onto the bed, causing a huge cloud of grime to gather over it like
a swarm of eager bugs.
"You do realize," she began, "that we are no
longer underneath the leadership of Lord Darigan, but Kass."
"I understand," answered Callista in a bored
voice, sitting down beside the book, which Morguss was now opening to a yellowed
page. "You've reminded me many times over about our supposed allegiance to him.
But Mother, I have this feeling that he exudes an aura that is beyond lucky
for us. I have this strange feeling that he's much more than that…could our
alliance to this Lord Kass be wrong? I mean, why bother destroying Meridell
again when we know we won't succeed?"
The witch was taken aback by her words. "Callista,
what is wrong with you? Don't you trust this new ruler that has taken us under
his strong wings?"
She stared back at her mother with a defiant
glare. "No, I don't! In fact, sometimes I think we are being a bit too hasty.
Where's Lord Darigan, the true leader of Darigan, gone?"
"We don't think he's coming back," argued Morguss.
"How can you pledge your loyalty to someone who isn't even there to appreciate
it? Kass may be our only hope to peace here in the Citadel. If he says we must
cause chaos within that stupid kingdom beneath us, then so be it! I have faith
in that great fighter."
"I don't," said the Aisha under her breath. Then
she continued in a louder tone, "How do you know that he won't do you any wrong,
huh? How do you know that he will really stabilize everything that has been
"Listen to me, young lady!" chastised the Moehog.
"Don't you trust me? I've got complete trust in Lord Kass that he is the solution
to all our problems! Quit your worrying, Callista! Apparently you are not old
enough to understand. But…" Her scratchy, hoarse voice trailed off, as if she
were thinking of something important.
Her daughter waited with bated breath as she
bent over to scan the fine print of the open tome on her bed, nearly forgotten
through their debate about Lord Kass. Even her tambourine stayed put beside
Morguss returned to facing the Darigan Aisha.
"You do want to help your mother, do you?"
"Yes, I do," she said quietly.
"You do not want to see her suffer, nor do YOU
want to suffer without a proper leader, right?"
Callista bit her lip before answering. "Yes,
"Don't you see? Lord Kass is our only hope. If
he can't do it, who is left? I am but a close advisor to him, not a successor
to the throne, if we call it that here atop the Darigan Citadel. You might not
like him at first, but you could change your mind."
"Don't you want to live peacefully once again?
Our past ruler has failed; second time's the charm, probably."
The Aisha nodded halfheartedly. "I guess," she
whispered. "Still, I have to admit, I'd prefer it if Lord Darigan was back."
"You'll have to face the facts," said Morguss
grimly. "He's no longer around to protect our behinds. Kass is here…and more
This time, Callista was listening quietly.
Her mother's slight frown twisted upward into
a seemingly triumphant smile that eased the savage beast within her heart. But
the brief moment of ease was interrupted by her next words.
"Lord Kass would like to see you right now. That's
why I came here. I told him all about you and your love for dancing, and we
came up with a good plan. I was supposed to tell you what it was about, but
somehow the talk turned a tad nasty, for which I apologize. Come, pick yourself
up, it is time to pay the big chief himself a visit."
"Tell me why we're here again."
"To talk about the latest scheme we've cooked
up to set things straight and show Meridell that we're the boss!"
"You never told me that part back at home. Neither
did you tell me that I had to take this stupid morphing potion and totally ruin
Sure enough, Callista didn't look quite much
like her old Darigan self. She was now a brown Aisha, but still wearing her
usual clothes. Her eyes hovered over Morguss as she turned the doorknob to the
belly of the beast. For some strange reason, Callista felt a ripple of magic
course through her like a well-placed lightning bolt, but shrugged it off to
face the situation at hand.
Her spirits weren't lifted even when she was
led into a cozy room with simple furniture and a huge map of Meridell tacked
up on the wall with several arrows piercing it. A Darigan Eyrie was poring over
a long scroll of paper brought to him by a hooded blue Zafara who exuded a satisfied
smile before sweeping off towards the way Callista had made her grand entrance.
"Such a big help, that Agent is," he mumbled
before looking up. "Ah, Morguss."
"Lord Kass," she greeted, bowing before him.
"I have brought my daughter along, as you can see. She is part of the plan."
The Eyrie glanced at the Aisha from head to toe.
She cautiously surveyed him as well. "Greetings, Lord Kass," Callista finally
spoke up. "I daresay you wanted to see me?"
He nodded. "Yes, Miss Callista. According to
your mother, you seem quite bothered about my leadership. Well, what has that
pixie called Lord Darigan done for you so far? What he has done, I can do better.
All you need is a little faith, trust, and the consent to send you over to Meridell
as my messenger. You will disguise yourself as part of the plan to bring peace
back to the Citadel."
"Peace…" She echoed the word, letting it roll
over her tongue. "But isn't it supposed to be peaceful now?"
"No," said Kass, touching the hilt of his sword
for a moment before returning to his visitors. "Not until we make sure Meridell
does not do us any more harm. Your participation is necessary. The fate of Darigan
Citadel lies in your paws…or in this case, your tambourine. Go then, go to King
Skarl. I think your mother has done her part with you? Make us all proud, Callista.
Your name will soon be up in lights as one of those who helped restore us to
our former glory."
The Aisha gulped. Her paws gripping the tambourine
shuddered a bit as she let all this sink in. But at last, she blurted out the
words that made her mother and her new leader finally smile.
"All right," she said. "I'm going. I'm going
for Darigan Citadel."