The Mortog of Meridell
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'
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
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
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
"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...
Search the Neopian Times