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The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part One


by ridergirl333

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Author's Note: This series is part of "The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran" Chronicles. I recommend that you read the other parts of the series, especially "The Storm Clouds are Rising" in Issue 136. However, if you're like me and too lazy to read the entire thing, then all you need to know is that Jeran gave Kasha Moonfang the Lupess Seer a diamond ring and said that after the war, they'd spend their lives together. Then, he left for Hope River. When he had left, she had a vision foretelling his death.

Fortunately, We Had a Plan

Kayla the Zafara sat in her alchemy lab in the tallest tower of Meridell Castle, crouched over a cast-iron cauldron. Potions bubbled and simmered around her in beakers and test tubes. Odd, slimy, wriggly things hung from the ceiling to dry or were kept pickled in jars. The wooden floor was marked with burns and acid stains, matching the table that the potions were kept on and the stool on which Kayla sat. The distinct odor of burning rubber hung in the air. But Kayla didn't notice. She had become accustomed to it by now.

      "At last, my masterpiece is complete," she whispered to herself, twirling her starry cape around her in a dramatic fashion. "After all these months of research and failures and bugging my elders for information, I have finally created…" She lowered her voice to add a hint of drama. "The ultimate power booster. I just need to add my… secret ingredient."

      "Ahh, get over it!" snapped a voice behind her. Morris the green Quiggle straightened his blue Lupe ears and rolled his eyes in exasperation. "We all know your 'secret ingredient' is dung."

      "It's not dung!" Kayla protested furiously, glaring at her Quiggle companion. "It's the solid excrement of an infant Whinny, removed under the light of the full moon and boiled in a pot with a wriggling grub for three sunrises…"

      "It's DUNG!" shouted Boris the vampire Blumaroo, balancing on his tail, spreading his cape outward and opening his mouth, revealing rows of needle-sharp teeth. This little trick scared the wits out of every Meridellian… except Kayla.

      The Zafara grinned and gently tapped the center of the Blumaroo's chest. He lost his balance and went down like a brick. "I'm the chemist, and if I say it's not dung, then it's not dung."

      "It's dung," said Lisha the Aisha, who was standing in the doorway and trying not to burst out laughing at the antics of her friends. Seeing the cross look on Kayla's face, she held her arms up in a gesture of surrender. "But it's your lab, so you can deny it all you want. Let's just get this 'secret ingredient' into the potion so we can all get back to our training."

      Kayla shrugged and returned to her lab equipment. "Okay, it's dung. Whatever. Let's just get this over with." She reached for a vial containing her "secret ingredient", the excitement on her face gone and replaced by a grim look of determination. This moment would prove whether or not she was truly like her idol, Kauvara the potion brewer. She held it in her paw for a moment, studying it. This was her moment of victory. Carefully, she tilted it over a pot containing a simmering red liquid. "If the contents of this cauldron turn green and thick," She whispered to her friends, "We ought to have a workable Petpet Growth Syrup."

      Morris opened his mouth to comment, probably about Kayla's "secret ingredient," but Lisha thwacked him on the knee with her wand of Ultranova to make him shut up.

      Dramatically, Kayla tilted the vial and the contents came tumbling out. They hit the water… and nothing happened. The red potion continued to simmer, as though it were mocking its creator. A chemist wanna-be. A normal Zafara.

      Tears came to Kayla's eyes. She wasn't like Kauvara. She'd never be like Kauvara! Frustrated, she kicked the cauldron, making the contents lurch and spin. "This is INSANE!" With a groan of agonized disappointment, she threw her head back and shouted at the ceiling. "WHY do things like this happen to me?"

      "What are you talking about?" Morris said. "Your potion is green."

      "Shut up," Kayla snapped. "You don't have to start your antics…

      "No!" Lisha interrupted her friend, forcefully tugging on the Zafara's ears and forcing her gaze away from the rafters. "It's green! The kick must have… stirred the cauldron somehow!"

      Lisha's last sentence was drowned out by Kayla's thoughts. She had done it! She had created the ultimate petpet weapon! She could be like Kauvara! And best of all, there was hope for Meridell! They finally had something that could stand up to the War Machines.

      Slowly, paw trembling with excitement, Kayla took a test tube from a rack on the table. She dipped it into the mixture in the cauldron, a grin lighting up her face when she found out that it had the consistency of honey! Petpet Growth Syrup!

      "Guys," she whispered. "We did it."

      * * *

      Dust settled over the castle library like a thick blanket, stirring and raising clouds under Jeran the Lupe-Knight's paws. Books were scattered all over the floor of the paneled room, forgotten and forlorn. During war, there was little time for reading and learning. Unable to sleep, Jeran had taken a walk around the castle and something had drawn him to this room. Jeran, dressed in the simple tunic and breeches of a peasant farmer, picked up a random book and opened it. From its dusty pages stared a Darigan-colored Eyrie, vicious and angry, its eyes glowing red in the near-blackness of the library. Jeran brought the book over to the light of a candle and red its title. "On the Art of War". The Art of War? he thought with a half-amused grin. That's like saying, "On the Art of Torture."

      Outside, grey clouds loomed, obscuring the ever-present moon and stars. A violent breeze swept in from the north, tearing the branches off of trees and uprooting small bushes, scattering dead plants and debris over the Meridell Gardens. Some clown, (probably Morris,) had taken the Court Dancer punchbag that the Squires used in training and tacked it to the flagpole, letting it soar like a battered banner.

      "Looking for something?" A voice by the doorway made Jeran whirl around, startled. Then, he spied the stranger's face. "Martin." He gasped, "What are you doing here so late?"

      "I could ask you the same question," the yellow Lupe said, striding towards the window to gaze with Jeran. "You're riding to battle tomorrow, are you not?"

      "When are we ever not riding to battle?" Jeran asked dryly. Martin smiled. The yellow Lupe was one of the king's most trusted advisors. A military genius in the way of strategy. One of the greatest minds ever to grace the castle with his presence. He was dressed in a long woolen night-shirt and sandals and carrying a candle to light his way. His body was lean and muscular and his paws were accustomed to the rein and the sword as well as the pen. His eyes were as small and keen as hawks' eyes. He had known Jeran since the boy had first stumbled into this medieval world. How helpless and small he had seemed then. And how much he had grown!

      "Well, may good luck be with you." Martin patted the younger Lupe on the back. "Stay strong and watch your back. For the sake of Meridell. And the sake of your sister." He paused, his eyes gazing at the torrents outside. "She worries about you, you know."

      "And I worry about her," Jeran replied automatically, without thinking.

      Martin nodded solemnly. "But she worries about you more."

      Again, Jeran didn't think before he spoke. "I'll be fine."

      "Mmmm-hmmm," Martin nodded. Then, he started towards the door and gestured for Jeran to follow.

      The pair walked through the cold stone halls of Meridell Castle, led by the light of Martin's candle. They traversed down several flights of stairs, through shortcuts and passageways, until the reached a pair of huge oaken door, nearly twice Jeran's size. In the very center of the right door, there was a bronze keyhole. It looked like any normal keyhole, but to anyone with magic tracking abilities, it glowed in red, gold and blue. Slowly, Martin lowered his snout so he was eye-level with the keyhole. It scanned him, making sure he had no spells on him. Then, he whispered a password into the keyhole. "Meridell Forever."

      With a squealing creeeeeak, the door opened to reveal the Meridell War Room. The place where the military secrets of the kingdom were kept. Four solid stone walls encircled the room, decorated with beautiful tapestries, detailed battle maps, enemy spears and a dartboard that looked peculiarly like Kass's face. The floor and ceiling were also stone, and protected from Darigan minions with a spell that would send an electric shock to any Darigan-colored pets that might enter the room. The spell was especially active at night, and Jeran could feel it buzzing around his foot paws.

      Martin used his candle to light a candle chandelier that hung from the ceiling. Then, he pulled a detailed map of Meridell and the Citadel from the wall. The map was covered in X's, squiggly lines, and arrows. "I need your advice on this plan, Jeran." He said. "The King trusts you; you're his number one advisor. So tell me what you think.

      "The red X's are our foot-soldiers, attacking from the ground. The silver ones are soldiers on giant Turtums. The blue ones are knights on Unis, flying. The gold ones are knights on Unis, galloping on the ground.

      "Each of the purple X's represents a score of Darigan foot-soldiers, and the brown ones are single War Machines."

      "Each x is twenty soldiers?" Jeran asked, eyes wide.

      "Aye," Marti nodded grimly. "Twenty soldiers."

      "In that case," Jeran muttered, staring at the ocean of purple before him. "We're hopelessly outnumbered."

      Martin gave him a look that could have sliced through the stone wall behind him. "Never say the word 'hopeless', Jeran my lad. Not in my war room." He turned back to the map. "We're outnumbered. They have more experience than we do. They have better weaponry. But one thing that they don't have is the support of the peasants." Taking a quill and some green ink, Martin sketched green X's all over the map. There were hundreds, no, thousands of them! The entire map seemed to be painted green! "There!" he said, finishing one final x. "Now who outnumbers who?"

      Jeran was too amazed to answer.

      "Kass knows that the peasants are the deciding factor in this war. That's why he sent that wretched gypsy dancer down here. You control the peasants, you control quite an army."

      "But they can't fight!" Jeran said. "They're simple farm folk!"

      "We train them," Martin said in a simple manner, as if he were explaining to a child that one plus one equals two. "Then, we launch my Master Plan.

      "We send the Turtums in by the scores, overwhelming Kass's forces on the ground. He'll put every last wretch with a spear into that battle. Every man and woman among them. We give him the illusion that the entire Kingdom of Meridell is on the ground, fighting against him. I even have a young Lupe pup masquerading as you, if you don't mind."

      "No, I don't," Jeran said, amazed by this plan. "But… where will I be?"

      "On a flying Uni," Martin replied, pointing to a blue x. "While the forces of Kass are on the ground, I want you, Danner, and a handful of our most elite knights to storm the Citadel from the air! Get in there while their guard is down. Do as much damage as you possibly can. Ruin their food supply, smash their furniture, go nuts in there!" Martins' eyes darkened, as he continued to speak. "And if possible… take care of Kass while you're up there. I don't want to have to deal with him again."

      Jeran nodded, his face equally as grim in the candlelight. "Trust me, my dear friend. I intend to."

      * * *

      That same night, Kasha Moonfang the Lupess Seer tossed and turned on her mattress in her tent, unable to sleep for fear of those dreams. Nightmares of Jeran, her greatest friend, falling from Kass Citadel. Nightmares of fire, falling stars, plummeting to earth and blazing, destroying crops, houses, lives…

      Meanwhile, Jacob the Kyrii Seer was sitting in a makeshift rocking chair, peering over a book of ancient lore, a candle in his paw. "Ye're having trouble sleeping?" he asked.

      Kasha nodded. "Oh Jacob… If I have to keep this secret for another day, I think it'll burst out of me against my will! I wish I could just tell Jeran…"

      "That he's goin' to die?" Jacob asked. Startled that anyone would dare say the words so bluntly, Kasha leaped off of her mattress. "Jacob!"

      "Wha'?" he asked. "It's true." He carefully placed his bookmark in his book and shut it. "So are you goin' to tell 'im?"

      Kasha turned her gaze from Jacob's, not wanting to look him in the eye. "Um… yes."

      "Don't," Jacob said firmly. "It's against the Law of Seers."

      Again, Kasha wasn't expecting such a blunt answer. "I'll break the Law if I have to!"

      "Don't." And for a third time, the Kyrii Seer was as subtle as a sledgehammer. "It's one of the worst things that a Seer can do." He put the book back into a cabinet and sat back down in his rocker, motioning for Kasha to pull a chair beside him. She obeyed, curious.

      "When a Seer breaks the Law, all other Seers know it," Jacob said, looking straight at Kasha. Again, she tried to dodge his gaze. "A special mark appears on your forehead, called the Traitor's Star. It's shaped like an eight-pointed star, and any eyes that have ever gazed into a crystal's depths will be able to see it, blazing bright orange. And they will hate you, and they will curse you, and they will make your life miserable!"

      "What about normal people?" Kasha asked, still not convinced that silence was the right option for her.

      "They won't be able to see the Traitor's Star, but they'll know something's wrong with you. That you're not… right somehow. And they won't know the reason why. Sometimes, an ignorant regular person can be worse than an angry Seer. The normal ones, they'll whisper about you. And thus, you'll be isolated, set apart from Seers and normal people alike. All alone in the universe. That's not the sort of future you want, pretty one!"

      Fear and indecision gripped Kasha's mouth, rendering her voice useless. Wordlessly, she crept back to her mattress and feigned sleep. Convinced that his apprentice was dozing, Jacob fell asleep in his rocker, snoring softly. Kasha reached for her earlobes, removing her trademark chandelier earrings. One was made of hammered gold, a sun. Dangling from that sun were six golden stars. The other was a silver moon with six silver stars dangling.

      With a jolt, Kasha realized that the stars on her earrings had eight points!

      Tossing the silver earring to the side, she examined the gold one more closely. She remembered lending it to Jeran, tying it to a string and letting him wear it around his neck while he searched for his owner and his identity in Neopia Central. Now, it still carried a piece of Jeran with it. A bit of his spirit, maybe. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the earring. "I'm sorry… I just can't decide right now."

      And then she cried herself to sleep…

Darigan, Fallen

Meanwhile, in a quiet part of the kingdom in the far north, the moonlight splashed over rocks and trees, running through the forests in a silver stream. It was pure wilderness, with nothing but the wind to disturb you. The perfect place to just sit and think. And here, a bat-like creature sat on a speckled gray rock shaded by a pine, reflecting on his life.

      What a wretched life it was! he decided. And now, I get a second chance at it. Oh faeries above! I'm so afraid of messing up again… of falling a second time, harder and faster than ever before.

      What went wrong? I wanted the best for my people. I wanted them to have enough to eat. Warm places to stay. No disease to worry about. And I wanted all of this quickly.

      That was where I went wrong, I guess. Taking the easy way out. Stealing a precious artifact from a kingdom that needed it.

      What goes around, comes around, I guess. The Orb was then stolen from me. And I became corrupt. Power-hungry. And when I finally did get my hands on the Orb again, I no longer wanted food. I wanted vengeance. And I attached myself so fully to that Orb, that its magic and my soul became one. And when its magic ran out, I ran out.

      And I fell…

      And by some miracle unknown to me… I was given a second chance. A chance to right my wrongs. Look at me. Scrawny, clothed in this burlap-sack of an outfit, with only a fraction of my former power. Humbled, certainly. But alive, and grateful for it.

      I won't mess up my second chance.

      "Darigan…" he whispered his name out loud. Only the wind whispered a response. "Darigan. Darigan. Darigan." It tasted bitter on his tongue, like a curse to him. So many memories attached to that name. So much pain and anguish. So many broken hearts… "Darigan… Darigan…"

      "Darigan…" This time, it wasn't his mouth that formed the word. He looked around. No one. "Darigan…" The voice said again. It was sweet and thin, like the chirping of a bird. The bat-creature looked up. "Darigan."

      A white Weewoo with red-tipped wings, a gold stripe on his chest and a blue stripe down his back was sitting in the pine tree above him, chirping his name over and over again. "Darigan. Darigan. Darigan."

      "You torture me, you beautiful bird," Darigan said dryly, picking a smooth gray pebble from the ground. He didn't want to hurt the creature, just scare it away. Raising his arm, he took aim at the tree bark near the bird's feet. And let the rock fly.

      It missed its target by a few inches. With a sickening crack, it broke one of the Weewoo's soft white wings. The bird let out a screech of pain and fell from its perch. Pine needles rained from the sky. Startled, Darigan's immediate reaction was to cover his eyes but then he thought better of it. Darting forward, he caught the falling bird in his claw-like hands. "Darigan! Darigan! Darigan!" The bird screeched, panicking and struggling to free itself from its captor's claws.

      "Easy there, little fellow." Darigan whispered gently, trying to reassure the bird with the sound of his voice and the gentle touch of his hands. "I'm not going to hurt you. But I think I remember a thing or two about healing petpets. Though you still torture me with that name."

      The Weewoo just looked up at Darigan with huge, coal-black, innocent eyes. "Darigan?"

      The former warlord sighed and ignored the petpet. "Now I need to set your bone, little guy. This might hurt a little." I'm a fool, talking to a petpet, Darigan thought with a chuckle. If only Galgarrath and the others could see me now. Their ruthless warlord, talking to a Weewoo. He can't understand me! He didn't know that Galgarrath had fallen from the Citadel a few days earlier.

      Taking both pieces of the Weewoo's broken wing, Darigan pieced them together. The Weewoo screeched in pain continually, flapping its one good wing in a vain effort to break free. A few seconds later, it fainted from the agony of its mini-operation. "Let's see if I have any healing magic left in me," Darigan said to himself. He focused his mind on the Weewoo's broken bone. Focused on the two pieces, fusing together to become one. The injured muscle and tissue around it, healed and whole again. A soft golden light radiated from his fingertips, absorbing into the Weewoo's wing. Everything it touched was rejuvenated and new. And the two pieces of bone united again. The Weewoo's eyelids fluttered. Opened. "Darigan?"

      "That's my name, don't wear it out," the bat-creature said with a chuckle.

      I'd like to thank you… Darigan, the Weewoo said in a thin, reed-like voice. The voice wasn't one that Darigan heard in his ears, but instead, in his mind. The magic that Darigan has used on the Weewoo must have forged some sort of psychic connection between them! The bat-creature's jaw dropped in sheer shock. Not knowing what to say, Darigan said the first thing that came to mind. "Who in the name of bloomin' Buzzes are you?"

      The Weewoo smiled half-heartedly. I go by no one and true name, though many Neopets call me Faith because I sport the Meridell colors and rekindle their faith in their kingdom. I don't know how that all got started, but I think whoever named me was one of those romantic-bard types. So I suppose you're the one whom they call Darigan. The Fallen One.

      The bat-creature's face fell at the mention of his name. "I am he. But please… just don't mention my name."

      Brings up bad memories? It was the Weewoo's turn to chuckle. I, for one, don't blame you for what you did a year ago. Anyone could have been corrupted by the Orb. Feeling the sheer, intense power in your hands can make your mind race so quickly that you lose all power of thought.

      "I shouldn't have let that happen!" Darigan roared, pounding his fist on the stone he sat on. "I'm supposed to be strong! In mind and in body! I'm supposed to be…"

      A leader, Faith whispered. Yes, I've heard the story before. I've listened to the ravings of knight-generals, noblemen and kings. The people expect their leaders to be perfect. Newsflash: You're just a normal person like everyone else. Gifted with intelligence and the courage to take command of an army, but nothing more. And you're certainly not gifted with perfection.

      "You've spoken with kings?" Darigan asked inquisitively.

      Faith turned his head, as if in shame. I… I used to be a double agent spy bird, during the wars between Hadrunn and the country of Cappat. Hadrunn was your father, wasn't he? Anyway, I was his stress-relief. Whenever he felt anxious, he'd talk to me. It always made him feel better. I then took his frustrated rants to Mattiel, queen of Cappat, along with any information I could scrounge up about Hadrunn's Citadel's weaknesses. She rewarded me greatly. Then, in turn, she would tell me of her problems, which I told to Hadrunn. It was a vicious cycle, really.

      Darigan nodded, curious about this tiny winged stranger. He seemed to come to rekindle Darigan's faith, not in his homeland, (for that had been lost long ago,) but his faith in himself. "What news do you bring of the world?" He asked the young Weewoo. "And especially, what news of Darigan Citadel? Tell me what has happened in my absence. I've been living in a barn for the past couple of weeks."

      Your Citadel is ruled by a haughty Eyrie of noble blood. One named General Kass, whom I believe served under you in the first Meridell war, did he not?

      "Kass," Darigan said, rocking back and forth on his speckled gray stone and thinking aloud. "One of my more ambitious generals."

      Ambitious doesn't begin to describe him. Muttered Faith, stretching his newly-healed wing. He hopped to his feet and flexed it some more, working out all of the kinks. You're skilled in the healing magic, did you know that? Anyway, Kass has let loose his most terrible army on Meridell. More terrible than anything that you have ever ordered to set foot on that land. I believe he intends to conquer it.

      "Conquer it!" Darigan yelped, shock waves running down the length of his body. This was deja-vu all over again. A new nightmare that came alive. "And how do the people respond to this war?"

      Oh, they rally behind him every step of the way. Faith said, preening his wing. Only because he brainwashed them into believing that Skarl will take over the Citadel if they don't conquer Meridell first. Meanwhile, Kass is trying to hide the fact that grain and fruit supplies will be especially low this winter and the economy is taking a turn for the worse.

      "That wretched little… little… Why can't he learn from my mistakes? If things are going wrong in a kingdom, you don't hide it with a magic Orb or a flashy, attention-grabbing war. You fix it."

      Faith made a noise that sounded a bit like a snort. Try telling that to General, or should I say, Lord Kass.

      "And now he's taking my title?" This was all too much for poor Darigan to bear. He fell off the rock and lay on his back on the soft bed of pine needles, staring up the few stars that were visible through the canopy. "Oh, he took my title!"

      It's not your title anymore. Faith said, in a poor attempt to be helpful. You're the Fallen One.

      Darigan rolled over to face the Weewoo. "Oh, will you quit it!"

      Faith snorted again.

      Touchy, aren't you?

      "No," Darigan said, rolling back onto his back. "I'm just a fallen bat-creature… with nowhere left in the world to go. No way to make up for my past mistakes. No one will ever forgive me for what I've done, even if I live to be ten thousand years old."

      A ruckus sounded from a distant part of the forest. Three of Kass's Eyrie guards, heading towards Darigan and Faith.

      You might not live that long if we don't get out of here, Faith said to Darigan. And with that, the pair flew off into the starlit night, Darigan with a lot more to think about, now that he had met this free-spirited Weewoo.

To be continued...

 
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