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The Mortog of Meridell


by _the_antagonist_

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I assume you've all spent some time in Meridell? The beautiful rolling hills, the laughter of peasants and royalty alike filling the very air of that magical place. To the West, the radiance of Skarl's grandiose palace sits, gazing out upon all of Meridell with justice and right judgement, while to the East the mystical Glade of Illusen lies, welcoming all travelers into its hypnotizing majesty of nature. Neither Skarl's frowns nor the ever looming Citadel of Darigan can damper the wonders of this medieval world. Yet for me, Meridell was quite different, Meridell was my prison...

      Now before you request a curse from Illusen to place upon me, allow me to tell my tale in all its fullness, and if your rage isn't completely put to rest, well then I insist that you call upon that famous Earth Faerie. I am a Mortog. Not just any Mortog, as you can plainly see in reading this story. I am a literate Mortog who can write as well as I can speak, unlike any other petpets who seem to simply squeak or yelp a bit.

      Obviously, a Mortog such as myself should be moving on to new and greater things than simply being a petpet to some Neopet of Neopia, or so I in my pride believed...

      "Talking Mortog, eh?" a brown Ixi questioned, a distinct mischievous gleam to her eyes. She adjusted her crown slightly, which had somehow righted itself to sit straight on her head. That was hardly the fashion, at least not in Sinsi's view. "I think that would scare away business more than anything. These puzzles get enough people frustrated; they don't need a silly Mortog talking to them as they think." Her red eyes shifted lazily from the me to stare into the distance. Immediately her bored expression shifted to one of excitement. "Customers," she said happily. Then, realizing I, that pestering Mortog was still there, she waved her hand dismissively. "Shoo. Go back to whatever Neopet owned you before. This world isn't safe for lone petpets, let alone talking ones."

      With a sigh, I hopped off, knowing that I had gone to every employer in Meridell, searching for a career that would befit a petpet such as myself. I followed one of the meager dirt roads of Meridell, hardly watching where I hopped, and no longer caring for that matter. I was lost in thought, wondering what my next move should be. I certainly could simply return to my former owner, though there was only one problem in that respect. I could not remember what Neopet had owned me, nor anything really prior to a few weeks ago. I had simply woken up one day, knowing I could speak, knowing I could read and write, and certainly knowing the life of servitude and entertainment to a Neopet was not for me. I wanted to make my way in the world, and that was my only clear, driving memory of the life I could not remember.

      Which brought me to my second concern. How had this sudden case of amnesia overcome me? I had no giant welt atop my head, or any scar that might hint at some type of accident. I was simply a Mortog... a talking one, of course.

      "Oi! There's one o' those little buggers!" I heard from a few feet away, yet when I looked up to see what was going on, I felt a great black bag cover me, blocking my vision from what was going on. All I could tell was that my body was being lifted into the air, jumbled and tossed within the bag, which felt rather slimy to me. I also suddenly heard this horrible sound ringing in my delicate Mortog ears, some unearthly noise...

      "Errr-ribbit!" Something croaked at me, looking around, my eyes wide with horror, I realized I was staring at a mirror image of myself, a fellow Mortog. It looked at me with only the slightest of curiosities, before returning to its business of hopping over its Mortog brethren who also seemed to have been stuffed into this bag. There were about a dozen or so of us in this ever moving sack. Whatever oaf was carrying it, seemed to enjoy swinging it as he walked, the fool. I struggled in vain to maintain my balance, only to be pushed back to the bottom of the bag where the weaker ones struggled to avoid being crushed.

      Overwhelmed by this sudden peril I was in, I did the only thing I knew I could do... I yelled for my dear life.

      Soon after my screams and yells, a sudden light came into that dark bag full of ribbiting Mortogs, as a voice entered the din of noise, "Did me ears deceive me? Tell me it ain't the grog, did I 'ear one o' ye's talkin'?" My heart was racing now. My savior! Surely whoever this Neopet was, though quite horrible at speaking himself, would not keep a talking Mortog in this horrid bag.

      "Yes, you did," I yelled back proudly. "I can read, write, and certainly can talk, my good sir. Please let me out of this place, and I'll be on my way."

      A green hand emerged through the bodies of Mortogs, grabbing roughly at my legs, and dragging me upward past my hopping brethren. Although I had never realized how truly fearful of heights I was until this moment, dangling in the air, a great relief overcame me. I was no longer in that dreadful prison of burlap and mindless Mortogs. I glanced upward to see the face of a green Grundo grinning greedily down at me. My eyes widened, fearing that this ragged Neopet, covered in some skin affliction, perhaps neopox, was about to gobble me up right here and then. It was not foreign to me that Mortog legs were a delicacies in some parts of Neopia. I could only pray to Fyora above that that was not what this Grundo sought from me.

      Instead of flicking me into his mouth, as I was expecting, he laughed his hand shaking with the vibrations of the chortle. "Yer gonna make me rich, ye are! Piracy be nothin' compared to this!"

      "Piracy?" I said, quite shocked that my life was in the hands of a former pirate that had somehow found his way to Meridell. "What are you going to do with me? I demand to know!"

      Raising my flailing body higher, he held me so that my head, dangling upside down, was level with his. Our eyes met in a great contrast of emotions, mine glaring with utter rage and perhaps a hint of terror, while his were filled with laughter and dark mischief. "Ye, me well-spoken Mortog, shall be a part o' me wonderful plan to become the richest Grundo to grace the world o' Neopia. Smooch the Filthy Mortog, I shall call it. I'll be paid fifty neopoints so that some fool o' a Neopet can kiss one o' ye Mortogs."

      I was clueless as to whether I should laugh at this ridiculous idea or cry from the sheer stupidity of it. "What makes you think anyone wants to kiss a Mortog? Firstly, with that name you have, it shall certainly disgust anyone who might have considered buying into your scheme. Kiss the Mortog sounds much more pleasant. And second, no one would fall for such a thing. What Neopet would pay to kiss a Mortog, let alone do it of their own free will?" The Grundo grinned even wider, "I like tha' name much better, and I'm already 'appy with havin' caught ye, for yer provin' worth yer annoyin' blabbin'."

      He paused, collecting his thoughts as he prepared for his explanation of his brilliant idea to make quick and easy money. Still grinning, he began, "Don't ye know wha' fools these country bumpkins be? They go' it into their 'ead that princes and princesses be turned into Mortogs and tha' they can only return to their true form by bein' kissed. They even thought tha' I was a prince tha' 'ad recently returned back to meself with a kiss. Guess I look a bit like a Mortog... Bu' it gave me an idea. Why no' 'ave people pay to choose out o' a group o' Mortogs to kiss, thinkin' tha' one might be a prince or princess? O' course, they'll all be regular ol' Mortogs, bu' now tha' I 'ave ye, wha' with yer talkin' self, they'll think yer a prince yerself, and be sure to pay money to kiss ye."

      And before I knew it, this Grundo by the name of Alastor the Grungey (for obvious reasons) had set up shop in Meridell and surprisingly received rather good business. To ensure his act as a prince saved from Mortogdom by a kiss, I taught him how to speak correctly, as well as even to read a bit. Sometimes he'd even give me a few neopoints, which I saved diligently, though I wasn't quite sure what I was saving for. It was soon apparent that I, the talking Mortog, was the only reason anyone ever came to play Kiss the Mortog, and it was causing problems...

      "I kissed that Mortog yesterday! The talking ones are supposed to be the princes, they say, but this one just stays the same. What type of hoax is this," demanded a feisty young Acara.

     She scowled, turning to face the crowd of peasants who had gathered to watch this outburst. After all, it was better than working in the fields. "Are any of these Mortogs even princes or princesses? We've all been deceived!"

      Alastor the Grungey, looking slightly more cleaned up these days with his newly bought princely garments, glanced at me nervously, seeking guidance. "My lady," I said kindly, so that the Acara turned suddenly to glare at me, though I could still see the wonder in her gaze. It made me proud to know that I could influence others so, so I continued, "Calm yourself, please. I know of the Mortog you speak. He was not a prince; he had simply learned how to speak from one of the princely Mortogs, as perhaps I have. I may or may not be a prince, though you can certainly pay and find out as the others do. Do not cause a scene, dear. You're only going to embarrass yourself."

      The Acara stared at me doubtfully, but than declared challengingly, "Why don't any of these Mortogs speak? Why is it only one that speaks out of the entire group every time? That sounds quite suspicious to me. I say we lock up this liar in the dungeons of Castle Meridell! Alastor is no prince!"

      "Whoever said only one of us spoke," said a Mortog, the one placed right next to me on the table Alastor had erected for his business. I stared at the Mortog, a female one judging from her voice, utterly amazed that there were other talking Mortogs such as myself. Then another, towards the end of the table spoke, "I can be a prince just as much as that one! Kiss me! I'm sure my father from the Kingdom of Brightvale can reward you with riches you can't begin to imagine!" Soon all the Mortogs were yelling, arguing for themselves to be kissed, as both Alastor and I looked on dumbly. That day was a frenzy. Word spread far and wide about Kiss the Mortog, and each day droves of people were coming from foreign lands, not just the farms of Meridell, simply to play Kiss the Mortog. Never again did any of those Mortogs speak, and whenever I attempted to talk with them after a hard day's work, they simply looked at me curiously, before smiling blankly and hopping away.

      One night, though, the answer to our questions were soon answered when a dark figure approached the tent of Alastor and I, within the forest that surrounded Illusen's Glade. I was worthy enough, it seemed, to have my own bedroll to sleep on, rather than stuffed into a cage as the other Mortogs were.

      I still remember vividly how it had happened. The night was chill, the wind screaming throughout the night, branches falling with large crashes to the forest floor as the storm raged outside our petty cloth tent. Alastor cursed darkly as he attempted to sleep through the ruckus of thunder and wind outside, thoroughly wishing he had purchased that neohome he had seen for sale the other day. In short, neither one of us were getting much sleep. It was for this reason that we noticed a dark figure who had suddenly appeared between the flap of our tent. Shrouded in darkness, we could not make out what it was. I glanced fearfully at Alastor; he returned the gaze.

      Attempting to look less frightened he said in a commanding voice, "Go check on what that is, Mortog." Even after our years of business together, Alastor still treated me as subservient to him. We were not friends ever, really. Just partners in our work.

      "And what am I supposed to do," I asked hotly, "Go ribbit at the thing? What if its one of those things from the Citadel?"

      "You'll just have to take that risk, now won't you," Alastor countered darkly, his face now resembling the retired pirate I had met two years prior.

      Knowing he was serious, I hopped nervously toward the entrance. I was but a yard away, not daring to go any further. The shadowy being stood there, motionless, silent. Only the sounds of the great storm outside could be heard. The figure seemed to be staring past me, its eyes boring into the frightened Grundo, huddled beneath his blankets in the middle of the tent. "Are you Alastor?" came the voice, surprisingly soft and quiet. A woman's voice. "I've come to play."

      At this, Alastor the Grungey sat up, a deep scowl on his face. "Play?!" he cried angrily, "Play Kiss the Mortog? You came here, woke me up, scared the living day lights out of me, just to play that stupid game?" I watched as the shadowy form nodded. Without invitation, it stepped within the tent. I could see now that it was draped in a great black cloak, hiding all of its features in darkness. "This one," came the woman's voice again, pointing to me, "I want to kiss this one."

      Alastor was on his feet now, his green, pockmarked face absolutely livid. "Now wait just one minute! You have no right to barge in here. This is my home, this is my--"

      "I will make it more than worth your while," came the soft voice again. Reaching into the depths of her cloak, the woman pulled out a large bag of neopoints. Perhaps over a thousand in total. "The usual price is fifty neopoints, yes? Mine is two hundreds times that. It seems more than fair."

      Alastor's eyes widened in surprise. I watched with my own yellow eyes as his lit up with greed. He'd not refuse this stranger, no matter how mysterious she was. Outstretching his green hand he said, "All right, have a go at it. A well-spent 1000 neopoints, I must say."

      She tossed the bag eagerly, almost as if it were cursed, and turned to me. Lowering her hood, she revealed the face of a blue Zafara. But she was not just any Zafara. This was one that was well-known throughout Meridell, even to the likes of Mortogs like myself (though I do value myself on being well-informed). She was the Double Agent. Skarl never did know if this crafty Neopet was on his side or plotting against him. And no doubt no one would ever discover the truth. As she looked at me, a genuine smile on her usually impish face, I felt as if I had seen her before. Not just in the wanted section of the Neopian Times, either, but as if I had actually met this Zafara before. But it was a passing thought. It was impossible, after all.

      Picking me up, the Zafara placed her lips on my forehead. I was about to give my customary: "Oh, I'm so sorry, no prince this time. Play again sometime and good luck!" But I found the words couldn't come. For I found that something completely different was occurring, occurring to me, of all things!

      A pure, glowing white light surrounded me as I rose from the Double Agent's hands. I watched both Alastor's confused, awestruck gaze, as well as the sly, self-satisfied smile of the Zafara. I began... I began to change! Perhaps the foolish ideas of the Meridell farmer's were true. Perhaps I was a prince! Perhaps that was why I didn't remember my past, perhaps that's why I could talk and read and write. Perhaps...

      But it was not so, for when I landed, on my own two (not four) feet, which were now blue and significantly longer than before, I found myself dressed in rags, not princely garments. I was a Zafara, ragged black hair falling into my eyes. I stared with confusion at the Zafara, her eyes meeting mine. Finally, it clicked. "Rellian!" I gasped, rushing towards her, embracing her tightly. "Sister!"

      My memory, as if hidden behind a curtain of black, had suddenly been unveiled, everything flowing back to me. It had been because of Rellian's trickery towards Darigan, acting as a Double Agent for Skarl, that I had been captured. Long had I been in the dungeons of the Citadel before the dark Darigan used his magic to turn me into a mere Mortog, my memory lost to me forever, until now.

      "It was me," she said, pulling away finally, "who put a spell on those Mortogs, causing them to talk. I knew you were the one, I knew you were my brother, my Gaseric. I didn't want to mob to be angered, to destroy all of you. Then I'd never have my chance to turn you back. I'd never be able to set you free. But I didn't realize I'd cause such a frenzy. I never got a chance to kiss you, the lines became endless. That's why I came at night, here, when you were sleeping. It was the only way."

      "But why would no other kisses set me free?" I asked curiously, for surely hundreds of Neopets had kissed me within the last two years.

      "Because," she said with a smile, "The people of Meridell forgot one little rule about the Mortog-to-prince spell. It requires just a bit of love..."

      And so we turned to go, leaving a thoroughly befuddled Alastor behind. Perhaps I was a bit disappointed that I was no prince, and perhaps I was more than angry that two years of my life were wasted as a Mortog, but in the same token, I was grateful. Grateful for having the experience to know that being who you really are can easily be accomplished. Because you know who you are when you know love in its fullness. I began this tale in saying that I am a Mortog. But I am not. I am Gaseric, brother to the most famed Double Agent to walk Neopia. Who are you? Hopefully, you need not be cursed into Mortogdom to find out...

The End

 
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