The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Three
Before the Battle
The moon set, casting the world into the dreary pre-dawn hours, when the songbirds
had not yet awoken, but the Whoots had taken to their nests. I awoke, rubbing
the sleep from my eye. Kasha was still sleeping. Silently, I crept away from
her and dashed towards the castle. No teary goodbyes. I didn't want her to cry
any more than she had to.
I climbed over the castle gates, convinced the
half-sleeping Draik guard to lower the drawbridge for me and crept into my bedchamber,
where I hastily scribbled out a note for Lisha. I had to make it sound like
I didn't know whether I was going to die or not. If Lisha found out that I had
made Kasha break the Law, she'd never forgive me (For I was convinced that Kasha's
exile was my fault). It was hard to believe that I'd never see my sister again.
A wave of blissful numbness washed over me as I finished the letter. Just in
time. The trumpet sounded to wake the rest of the soldiers.
Breakfast that morning was a solemn, silent
affair. Danner sat beside me, scarcely touching his gruel. "Come on, Danner!"
I said, feigning cheeriness. "You've got to keep your strength up."
"Can't eat," the Wocky replied tersely, fingering
the string on his Regulation Meridell Crossbow.
"Danner, I'm giving you an order. Get some food
in your mouth. Now."
"Sir, with all due respect, I'm not hungry."
Seeing that the string was loose, Danner tightened it, then plucked it like
I smiled. Danner could be pretty stubborn when
he so chose. "And if I asked you as a friend?"
Danner paused. Looked up. Saw my smile. Then
He had scarcely gotten three spoonfuls in his
mouth, when Martin the yellow Lupe strategist gave the order to move. Wordlessly,
we left the breakfast table and mounted our Unis. "We have a plan," I muttered
to myself. Gripping my Uni's reins so tightly that my knuckles turned white.
"You have a plan?" Asked an annoyingly cheery
voice. It came from the tower. I directed my Uni out onto the tower and saw
Morris and Boris, grinning like two daft ducks.
"Yes," I said tersely. These two fools thought
that they could come to the Citadel with us! "And you two are not part
A crestfallen look fell over their faces. "Jeran!"
Morris whined, "King Skarl said we're knights!" "I told you he wouldn't let
us go," Boris muttered to his Quiggle friend.
I slapped my forehead with my paw in frustration.
What in the name of flamin' faeries had Skarl been thinking? Calling
these two young fools knights… "I don't care what the King said. I can't protect
you up there," I snapped. My patience was wearing thin. "Besides, Meridell needs
you here." They nodded solemnly, letting me know that they had received the
message. I smiled grimly and gave my Uni and gentle kick in the ribs. She flew
up… up… and away.
A sudden urge forced me to look back. Morris
and Boris were gone. Good, I thought. They've probably retreated to
the castle, where it's safe.
* * *
"Invisibility potions, on three," Morris whispered
to Boris. The Blumaroo draw a vial of bubbling purple liquid from his pocket.
Morris did the same. The two of them had pilfered chain mail and tunics from
the war room, and invisibility potions from the alchemy lab. A mischievous grin
lit up Morris's face. "One… two… three." The two of them gulped the potions
down and vanished into thin air.
"Okay," Morris whispered to his partner-in-crime.
"Ow!" the Blumaroo shouted. "You stepped on
"Watch where you're going next time."
"It won't make a difference. I can't see your
"Well just be careful!"
"Okay," Morris rubbed his hands together eagerly.
"Now all we need are Unis." They crept into the Castle nursery, where two young
Unis were having a mock-swordfight with sticks. "Ha! Take that you fiend!" shouted
the younger of the two, a starry Uni named Pansy.
"Back, back I say!" the older one said with
a giggle. He was a spotted Uni named Louis. Morris and Boris knew these two
well. They had spent many long afternoons playing Whack-a-Kass and beating up
the Court Dancer punchbag together. "Psst!" Morris hissed. "Pansy! Lou!"
Distracted, Louis forgot about the battle and
pricked his ears up, looking for the source of the voice. Taking advantage of
her friend's distraction, Pansy thwacked him on the rump with her stick. "Louis!
You're not paying attention!"
"Shh…" Louis put his hoof over the starry Uni's
mouth. "I heard something."
"Lou!" Morris whispered. "It's Morris. Listen
carefully; because I'm only gonna say this once. Boris and I are in the nursery.
"Really?" Pansy's eyes grew wide with excitement
as she wrenched herself away from Louis's hoof. "Whee! I wanna be invincible
"It's 'invisible,'" Louis corrected her. "Now
"You'll get your chance," Morris continued,
drawing another bubbling purple potion out of his pocket. Boris did likewise.
"Now, drink these and let us mount you. Louis, you're going to fly Boris to
the Citadel. Pansy, you're taking me."
"But… won't it be dangerous?" Louis asked.
Morris chuckled. "Relax! Boris and I are here!
What could possibly go wrong?"
"Well… For one thing, Pansy isn't a terrific
flyer…" Louis said. Pansy hovered in the air and came crashing down to illustrate
"I'm not a heavy load," Morris promised.
"And what about enemy arrows?"
Morris shook the vial, causing the liquid inside
to fizz. "They can't shoot you if they can't see you."
"And potion drinking… that's pretty dangerous."
"Relax already!" Morris said. "This was mixed
by Meridell's finest young alchemist, my dear friend Kayla. She knows what she's
doing. You'll be invisible for half an hour. That'll be enough time to get Boris
and me up to the Citadel, drop us off, then get your own furry behinds back
to the nursery without anyone noticing."
"And what'll we get from all of this?"
"Umm…" Morris thought for a moment. He hadn't
expected the unselfish Lou to want anything in return for his services. But
then again, these weren't normal circumstances. "Our undying gratitude?"
Louis shook his head. "Try again."
"A place in the history books for bringing two
of Meridell's finest heroes into battle?"
Morris sighed. Louis drove a hard bargain! He
reached into his pocket and drew out a handful of gold coins. "Thirty-seven
Neopoints and a lint ball?"
Louis held out his hoof, and Morris shook it.
* * *
Storm clouds loomed above, bringing with them
the promise of cold, wet misery. The first raindrop hit my nose, ice-cold and
heavy. "Wonderful," I muttered to myself. "What more can go wrong?"
The boom of thunder and a torrential downpour
were all the reply I got.
"Ahh, cheer up Jeran," said one of my companions,
a red Blumaroo named Samuel. "The rain might be a good thing!"
"How?" I asked.
He didn't respond.
Aggravated, I shook my fists at the heavens.
"Why aren't you on our side?" I shouted. "Why? Why?"
From afar, I heard bell-like laughter. "Keep
shouting. You might just get an answer."
Embarrassed, I looked around. "Who goes there?
Are you friend or foe?"
"According to you, I'm foe. Though I can be
friend, if you so wish." A beautiful air faerie materialized before me. Her
face was fair and dainty, framed by locks of flaxen hair. A sheer blue scarf
rested on petite shoulders, matching a pale blue dress. Butterfly-like wings
of the same shade sprouted from her back, fluttering in the buffeting wind.
I had thought that the wind would blow such a frail creature all the way to
Tyrannia, but she seemed completely unaffected by it. "Call me Psellia. I can
clear those messy clouds up for you, if you wish."
"That would be a huge help," I said with a grateful
smile. "Sorry for being so snappish before."
"You're worried. Worry is natural," She replied
with that same bell-like giggle. "And I can take care of a few of those soldiers
while I'm at it." Then, she sped off in a trail of golden light, parting the
clouds with her slender hands. Then, she turned on the battlegrounds below and
puckered her lips, blowing a floral-scented breeze at the soldiers. The troops
of the Citadel, who had once been tireless, soon felt their unnatural strength
draining. My belt glowed white-hot around my waist. I looked down and saw that
in addition to my original sword, a second scabbard was in my belt. And in that
scabbard was the Sunblade, a sword that shone with the fire of the sun. "Meridell
Forever!" She cried before disappearing into a cloud.
Danner blinked in bewilderment. "Who was that?
And why did she just help us?"
"I don't know, Danner," I confessed with a smile,
admiring my new weapon. "But I think we can trust her, though her motives remain
The sunlight peeked out from behind the clouds,
reflecting off of my armor and playing with Kasha's sun-charm necklace. And
in the distance, I thought I saw it reflecting off of a Weewoo's white feathers.
The Weewoo flew closer, and looked at me with coal-black eyes. Its wings were
tipped with crimson markings, a gold stripe ran across his chest and a blue
stripe ran down his back. Red, gold and blue, the colors of Meridell.
And I thought, we might just stand a chance…
Fire… Blazing hot fiery stars falling all around
her, filling the air with the odor of smoke and singed fur. All around her were
screams of panic as one building after another erupted into flames. The peasants'
homes were only wood and straw. They wouldn't last. Kass would reduce Meridell
From a few yards away, Kasha Moonfang the white
Lupess Seer saw her tent go up in flames. Her gypsy tent, the only home she
had ever truly known. And yet, it didn't even matter to her. Tents were replaceable.
There was one thing that wasn't.
Dodging flames and falling stars, she ran, smoke
stinging her violet eyes. Tears ran down her cheeks, tears that might have been
a result of the smoke or… something else. Fire danced around her, a dance as
lovely and destructive as the ballet of Rhianna, the Court Dancer Aisha. Smoke
everywhere made her cough violently. Through the smoke, she saw Jeran and the
evil Lord Kass, locked in a battle to the death. Kass, the power-hungry one,
the mad one, The one who had taken her family, her hometown, her people. Destroyed
them all. Her parents, peace-loving healers. Jonathan, a poor, innocent pup
at the time. Gone.
She had gotten another chance. A new land, a
new family, a new group of people. She wouldn't let him put her through that
again. And she wouldn't let him destroy the Lupe she had come to care so much
Kasha rushed towards the pair, the clanging
of swords ringing in her ears, mingling with the shrieks and cries of the terrified
peasants. Her movement seemed to be in slow motion. Her sun-charm earring fell
from her ear, into a fire and melted.
Suddenly, a giant star plummeted from the overcast
skies, headed straight for Kasha! Startled, the Lupess jumped back, feeling
a warm surge of wind as the nova missed her footpaws. A violent explosion shook
Meridell, making Kasha fall to her knees and creating a wall of fire between
her and Jeran. "Stop!" She yelled, "Stop this fighting! Jeran! Stop!"
But her voice was drowned out by the roaring of the fire. There was only one
thing left to do. Taking a few steps, back, Kasha took a deep breath, coughing
and wheezing a little. Then, she took a running start, headed right towards
Then Kasha Moonfang awoke in a cold sweat.
She was lying in an abandoned field. There was
no fire. She reached for her ear. The earring was there, safe and sound. Jeran
was sleeping in the castle, unharmed. (Or so she thought.) Trembling in fear,
Kasha drifted into an uneasy sleep.
* * *
The next day, miles away from Meridell Castle
and Kasha's field, the battle continued as usual in Meridell. Total chaos. The
war machines ravaged the countryside, unchecked by Meridellian forces. Meridell
had nothing that could stand up to those giants of wood, stone and steel. From
her position on a balcony in Kass Citadel, Morguss the Moehog witch smiled.
Being the most powerful mage in the Citadel, she had privileges that the common
footsoldiers didn't have. Like being able to talk to Lord Kass one on one. In
fact, Morguss was the only creature that Kass really and truly trusted. The
only one, the foot soldiers joked, who wasn't going to end up tossed off the
Citadel before this was all done.
Sensing Lord Kass behind her back, the old hag
turned to face him. "My Lord, the war goes well."
"Does it?" Kass asked with mild interest, as
though he were expecting it to go well all along. In reality, he was nervous.
What if the Meridellians came up with something? Something huge and powerful
that would be able to crush his war machines? How would he face the Three?
Morguss nodded, unaware of her master's fear.
"Better than expected," She said. "Your war machines prove too strong for the
Meridellian defenses. The Meridell army is in complete retreat. They haven't
A speck on the horizon caught Morguss's eye.
Just another panicked farmer lad. She assumed. Nothing more. But
something about that speck made her keep her eyes on it. Something about the
way it lumbered slowly instead of darting around in frenzy. And it shone curiously
in the sun, like a silver ring that someone dropped on the ground. A silver
ring bearing… the Meridell arms?
It drew nearer and nearer to the battlefield,
reflecting sunlight off its armor, nearly blinding the elderly hag. When the
beast turned, she was able to see it more clearly. It was… a giant Turtum. How
could Turtums grow that big? It was simply impossible! The Meridell army was
supposed to be hopeless!
Others came. Dozens of them. Scores of them!
Seeing their new adversaries, the purple hogs drawing the war machines stopped.
Sniffed. And charged.
On the first Turtum's back, a red Zafara rode
in a wooden box. Brandishing his sword, sending more sunlight into Morguss's
eyes, he shouted, "Ready! Aim! Fire!" At his word, several scores of bowmen
shot arrows from their positions atop their Turtums. Several of the arrows found
their marks, though most just bounced off of the armor of the hog-beasts. Angered,
the hogs continued to run. They were on a collision course with the Turtums.
Several soldiers, both from Meridell and the Citadel, panicked and leapt from
their mounts, plummeting into the ground below. Others remained steady, focused
on their foes.
They met. A thousand sounds tore the air at
once. Sickening crashes, hollow thuds, squeals of pain and fear. Splinters of
wood flew through the air. Chunks of rock scattered. Metal bent under the force
of the collision. War machines were torn apart and destroyed. Several of the
hogs, who had steel spikes running down their backs, managed to get under the
Turtums' bellies and spear them. One Darigan-colored Krawk on a war machine
managed to slice through the ropes that bound a box-seat to a Turtum, sending
the rider crashing to the earth. Catapults on the back of the Turtums threw
fireballs made of hay bound by mages' incantations, scorching the earth and
Above them, Unis and their riders fought with
Eyrie guards in the skies. Steel rang and clashed. Warriors dodged and dove,
swerved left and right, each playing the defensive role. Once in a while, an
Eyrie was able to knock a soldier off a Uni's back, sending them to their dooms
below. Kass grinned gleefully, while Morguss rolled her eyes. She knew her master
had a certain fascination with making things fall, but did he have to grin like
a pup at a toy store? Kass pulled a tassel off his uniform and, beaming with
sheer glee, dropped the tassel from the Citadel.
Trying to call her master's attention away from
his uniform, Morguss said, "Skarl sent every knight he has to defend the south."
Kass snapped around, remembering his fear and
agitation. If this were true… then Meridell might actually have a chance against
his ultra-powerful army! "Every knight?" He asked nervously.
"Aye," Morguss nodded. "Every knight."
"If we need reinforcements?"
"We could recall them at a moment's notice,"
Morguss reassured her master.
Still not convinced, Kass continued to question
the hag. "How many troops do we have on the Citadel?"
"There's no need for troops here, sir. The attack
force on the ground…"
"NO troops?!?" Kass said, throwing dignity
to the wind and letting his panic show. Sensing danger, Morguss rushed to reassure
him. Because when Kass was insecure, people fell. "Only a skeleton force, but
I assure you…"
A knock at the door interrupted Morguss in mid-sentence.
It was Mellavon, the Zafara spy that Kass had hired. Knowing that the two needed
a private conversation, Morguss continued to peer over the balcony while Kass
conferred with Mellavon in hushed tones. And while she was peering, an idea
struck her. The Meridellians were using fire in their warfare. Why shouldn't
Kass? After all, it was only fair to fight fire with fire. Morguss fingered
her Rod of Nova with a sly grin. As soon as Mellavon had left, the Moehog mentioned
this idea to Lord Kass.
An insane grin lit the warlord's face. This
was the opportunity he had been waiting for! A chance to burn those wretched,
good-for-nothing farmers' sons and daughters out of house and home, and make
them bow before the power of Lord… no, Emperor Kass.
All of pain and inner anguish he had felt over
the past several weeks erupted inside of him with the force of a mini-volcano.
All of that suffering, it was all their fault! Those Meridellians, every faerie-cursed
one of them! If they hadn't stolen the Orb all those years ago, Darigan wouldn't
have fallen. Kass wouldn't have had to seize power. And those Three voices in
his head wouldn't taunt him night after night. Never mind that most of these
Meridellians hadn't been born before the Orb was stolen. Never mind that Darigan
fell because of his own choices. Never mind that Kass had decided of his own
free will to seize power when Darigan fell. It didn't matter. It was their fault
he was suffering. That nobleman fleeing a Skeith guard, it was his fault. That
Wocky mounted on a Uni warrior, it was his fault. That Zafara child darting
through the burning streets and clutching her plushie, it was her fault. He
laughed manically as Morguss raised her wand and muttered the incantation.
"Die, Meridell scum!" he laughed. Morguss lowered
her wand, sending a score of burning stars plunging towards the ground, crashing
into trees, houses, war machines, people… It didn't matter to Kass. Meridell
was burning! He, Lord Kass, was destroying Meridell! He was getting the revenge
he had always dreamed of. "Die! Die!" he shouted, giddy with the thought. Then,
he reached over and seized the wand from Morguss's hands. The startled Morguss
leaped back, nearly having a heart attack from the shock. But again, Kass didn't
care. He raised the wand and brought it down, sending another score of burning
stars. Laughing like a child with a new toy, he raised it and brought it down
again and again. Meridell was his to destroy. He aimed one nova at a family
of Lupes huddled in a grove of trees. He giggled like a child as he watched
them scatter in panic and watched the trees burn. Seeing their young pup fall
and get hit by a war machine only increased his hilarity.
To be continued...