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

by ridergirl333


Kass's Past


      The word held a world of meaning for Kass. It meant death. It meant destruction. It meant terror.

      And he loved it.

      Nalarus was the name given to his faithful blade. A monster of a thing. Only the strongest of his warriors could lift it. A proud thing, shaped more like a kitchen knife than a sword. One side was dull, and the sharp side was chipped by decades of battling. Kass gazed at his reflection in the blade, grinning to himself malevolently. He could still remember the day he had gotten his Nalarus. Like it was yesterday.

      He was an Eyrie chick still, a boy with dreams of becoming a warrior for the Citadel. His father was commander of ten-score troops, yet there was no need for troops. The Citadel lived in peace, thanks to the protective power of the Orb.

      Yes, those were the glory days of his family. His mother, sitting by the fire and knitting or caring for his younger brother Todd. His father, polishing unused armor. He, a schoolboy, a dreamer, and a child. Innocent. Never knew the horrors of war.

      Until they came.

      Two-dozen knights, mounted on Uni steeds. Bristling with swords, spears, and pitchforks. All types of weaponry. There was a crazed look in their eyes; a look of haunting desperation. They'd have our Orb. And they'd stop at nothing to get it.

      Frantically, his father assembled his troops. But they were inexperienced, incompetent. Couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with their arrows. Or a palace, for that matter. They fired and fired, while Kass sat in a tree yelling at them. "Charge, you lazy Slorgs! Charge!" They paid no heed.

      And the villains got away.

      Almost immediately, a change could be felt in the land. The air tasted different. Darker, more bitter. A cloud settled over the sun, and rain came splashing down. An icy cold rain, accompanied by a shrieking wind. Kass and the villagers all stood in the square, watching the place where the Unis had been, in a dazed stupor. They didn't know the dangers of being out in the rain. They had never had to worry about it before.

      The next day, Kass awoke feeling weaker and drowsier. He had caught some sort of illness. Faeries only knew what. There were no doctors in the Citadel to diagnose it. There had never been any need for doctors. For weeks, Kass lay in bed, moaning and combating the illness with all of his strength. But the days passed, and he grew weaker.

      Meanwhile, his mother and Todd had also contracted the illness. They were dead within the month. But Kass survived. He regained his strength. And when he was well enough to get out of bed and look in the mirror, he wasn't the same Eyrie he had been.

      He had developed layers and layers of muscle and virtual immunity to poison or disease. The illness had strengthened him. And it had reinforced his will to become a soldier. His father patted his back and smiled. "I'm proud of you, son." He said. "Tough as nails, that's what you'll need to be."

      One day, months after the illness, Kass was in the forests foraging for food. Disease had affected the crops too, and they were slowly withering. "Kass," whispered a musical voice. He turned to see a beautiful, raven-haired faerie. Beside her were a cloaked Gelert and a squat, ogre-like Skeith. "I'm here to make you an offer, Kass." The faerie whispered, her voice smooth as silk. In her hand, she held an amulet made of green feathers and a tiny bird's skull. "We can help you to avenge the death of your mother and brother."

      "Avenge?" Kass had asked quizzically. "Why would I want to avenge anyone?"

      "They deserve it." The Gelert spoke for the first time, his voice flowing like the sweetest of milk. "The soldiers who stole the Orb. They brought disease upon the land. They killed your mother and brother. And they come from Meridell. You hate Meridell, don't you?"

      In that moment, the word fixed itself into Kass's mind. It was a word to loathe. "Meridell… yes, a nauseating place. I hate it. I do hate it."

      The faerie smiled. This Eyrie was like putty in her hands. "Take these then." She gave him the Amulet and the Gelert's blade, Nalarus. "Use these. Show your ambition."

      "Gain your revenge," the Gelert said.

      The Skeith nodded. "And prove to us your greed."

      And with that, the Three vanished.

      Kass joined Darigan's army the next day, working his way up the ranks more quickly than any other soldier. He proved his strength and ruthlessness in battle. Giving to quarter, showing no mercy. Finally, he had reached a pinnacle point. Would he become a commander?

      "I'm sorry, Kass." He could remember Darigan saying as the two walked through the hallways of the Citadel. "But I already have more commanders than I can manage. If something happens to one of them, you can have his spot. Now go prepare for tomorrow's battle. We're meeting our Cappatian invaders at dawn. You'll need to be well-rested."

      And a terrible idea struck Kass like a bolt of fiery lightning. There was one commander he could get to easily. One who slept in the same house as he did. One who was within easy reach of Nalarus's pointy end. His father.

      Who said he'd have to wait for something to happen to one of Darigan's commanders?

Riding Towards Doomsday

      Fiery novas rained from the Citadel, sending the land of Meridell into havoc and chaos. Below the Citadel, violent blazes cackled, sending oily black smoke plumes into the air. I felt my eyes watering and stinging. My Uni gave a few feeble coughs, struggling to breathe over this raging inferno. The fire consumed farmland, forests, haystacks, homes… So much destruction there… So much pointless destruction…

      The fire flickered, illuminating the hulking colossus that was the Citadel, its raging orange light playing off of its obsidian turrets and making them glitter like black diamonds. In one tower, I saw the firelight play off the face of Lord Kass. My target. His face was turned to the heavens, and he laughed. It was a thunderous laugh, an evil laugh, a laugh that turned my insides to jelly. He was laughing at Meridell's destruction. Sickened, I turned my head down, focusing on my saddle for a moment. "Are you okay, Jeran?" Danner asked, concern showing in his face.

      "Yeah, just feeling a little motion sickness," I lied, turning my head back up to the Citadel. Kass was accompanied by someone else, a hag in robes. Probably the Moehog Morguss. Morguss appeared to be holding a stick, which seemed to be the source of the stars of fire that fell upon the earth. Rage boiled within me, and I felt my eyes lock onto Kass's face.

      And his eyes locked on me.

      In that moment, we both held our gazes. There was an ocean of contempt in his eyes. Contempt and madness. Not to mention hunger for power and glee at the sight of my homeland burning before him. He was like a child on the Day of Giving, unwrapping presents, greedy and joyful. I kicked my Uni in the side (a bit harder than I had intended to) and picked up the pace as we rode towards doomsday…

     * * *

      We landed the Unis on the ground surrounding the Citadel. Fireballs rained from above, smashing into the Citadel's stonework and occasionally causing some explosions. In his fervor to eliminate us, Kass was destroying his own Citadel. I felt another wave of nausea come over me. Not even Darigan was this ruthless.

      "Be careful out here, Danner!" I called to my Wocky companion.

      "You watch your back out here too, Captain," Advised Samuel the red Blumaroo knight. His words were cut off as a fireball whizzed by, coming so close that I could feel the heat. I leapt out of the way. Samuel grinned in approval.

      A new barrage of fireballs rained from above, catching Danner, Samuel and I by surprise. Panic ran through my mind as I dodged fireballs. All I could see were flames, all I could smell was smoke. It overwhelmed my senses, threatening to push me over. My lungs screamed for air, my muscles began to ache.

      And as quickly as the fireballs began, they stopped. I looked over my shoulder to see if my comrades were okay. We had lost a few men in that attack, but all in all, we were in surprisingly good shape.

      "What was that all about?" Samuel asked in bewilderment.

      "I don't know," I admitted, panting to catch my breath. "They must have tried to overwhelm us with fireballs. Then they ran out of ammunition."

      I was wrong.

      Somehow, they must have found another stash of oiled rags, stones, and other materials. I saw the first fireball of a new onslaught, coming directly towards me. I leaned out of the way, feeling the heat on my armor. A despairing scream cut through the air like a knife. I wheeled around, my voice paralyzed in my throat.

      The fireball hadn't hit Samuel, but in his haste to escape it, he had darted too close to the edge of the Citadel. "Samuel!" I called, dashing towards him with all the speed I could muster.

      But it was too late.

      I could feel my rage burning within me. Samuel and I had trained many long nights together. We had received out knights' shields in the same year; we had conquered many villains together. And now, he was gone.

      I wheeled around to check on the rest of my troops. Danner had been scooped up by a particularly ferocious-looking Skeith guard. The Skeith flung the Wocky over his shoulder as though he were no more than a sack of potatoes. "Danner!" I cried, panic rising like a volcano's lava in my chest. I had lost one friend; I would not lose another. "Jeran!" Danner called back, struggling to free himself from the Skeith's vice-like grip. But it was hopeless.

      * * *

      Kass looked down upon the scene, smiling to himself. He had predicted that I would be up in the Citadel. After all, it was left virtually undefended. He knew I wouldn't pass up an opportunity like this. With a ring of a small silver bell, he summoned a Pteri messenger. "Tell our Skeith friend to keep that pathetic ball of fur, Danner, alive. Helpless, but alive. And tell him to bring him up here. He is of great importance to our little Lupe-knight, and I intend to use him as a bargaining chip, if need be." The Pteri nodded and flew off.

      "Me lord!" Kass turned around to see a Techo guard carrying Morris and Boris by the scruffs of their necks. "We foun' these two children playin' war games on the ground level. Shall we… dispose o' them for you?"

      "You can't hurt us!" Morris exclaimed, brandishing his Cap'n Threelegs Training sword furiously. "We've got powerful friends! Like Lisha the Lioness, Knight of Meridell, and the Champion, Sir Jeran Borodere!"

      "Aha… you're Jeran's friends?" Kass asked casually, a grin lighting up his face.

      Boris thwacked his Quiggle companion roughly with the flat of his dagger, causing his chain mail to rattle. "Half-wit! You shouldn't have said that!"

      "Drop them here." Kass said, still grinning like a child with a new toy. "We have two more bargaining chips, I think…"

      He turned to Morguss, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "Is it possible… to aim these things?"

      "Aim them wherever you please, my lord," Morguss said shortly, handing her rod of Nova to Kass. Kass gleefully took the rod. "Go into your chambers," He ordered the Moehog. "I'll summon you if I need you." And Morguss left, muttering darkly to herself about how she wasn't appreciated.

      Ignoring the Moehog hag, Kass raised the wand above his head and lowered it slowly, closing his eyes and tightening his grip for drama. A fireball whizzed out of the tip, crashing into one of his own soldiers. Kass seemed not to care. He had the power in his hands. And felt good.

      "Die, Jeran!" He shouted, sending a nova directly towards me. He watched from his tower as I darted out of the way, tripped over a rock, and banged my head on the Citadel, falling unconscious. "Hehehe…" The Techo guard cackled, rubbing his hands together. "Can I run me spear through 'im, me lord? Can I?"

      "No," Kass said stiffly. "Take these two children down to the ground level, outside the building. Then, go to Morguss's chambers and tell her to do her little magic thing. Make the Citadel float higher. It'll be a long way down for our Lupe friend, methinks."

Saying Goodbye

      Soon, Kass, Morris, Boris, the Skeith guard, Danner and I were on the ground level. I drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like eternity. "He left us unguarded," Morris whispered to his Blumaroo friend. "Let's make a break for it!"

      "Where?" Boris asked reasonably. "Unless you like skydiving without a parachute…"

      "Into the Citadel."

      "If we go in there, we'll get chopped to pieces! Kass's soldiers are in there!"

      "So? It'll be better than betraying Jeran…"

      The sound of rattling chain mail as Boris thwacked Morris again. It tore through my head like lightning tears through trees. Slowly but painfully, I came to full consciousness. "Wha… What are you two doing here?"

      "They were captured, just like you." I looked up to see Kass towering over me, holding a sword over his head in a dramatic fashion. Seeing what Kass was going to do, Morris started running towards the Eyrie. "Stop!" I ordered the Quiggle. "If he wanted to kill me, he would have done it before now. No… there's something else he wants."

      "Correct," Kass said, turning his icy red eyes on me. "I'm here to make you… an offer of sorts." He extended his left paw as if he were going to help me to my feet, while the right one still held the sword aloft. "Join me in my quest for revenge. In my battle for conquest. Just tell me the secrets of Meridell. We could have it all, together! Fine palaces, riches, power! You'll answer to no one."

      "No one but you," I said, spitting scornfully on his paw. "I won't take it. Not your palaces gilded with guilt, your riches obtained by treachery, your seat of power!"

      Kass gave a disdainful snort, wiping his paw on his military-style jacket. "So you'd rather serve that stupid king?"

      "I serve my king, and my conscience," I replied.

      He put his left paw on his sword again. "You'd be willing to sacrifice your life for your conscience," He said casually, as though he were talking about no more than the weather. "Fine. I understand that. Very noble of you. But what about… their lives?" He gestured to Morris, Boris and Danner. Realizing what was going on, Morris darted towards Kass. Boris grabbed his collar and held him back. "Knock it off!"

      What a dilemma. Although Danner was my friend, I wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice his life for the kingdom. He was a knight, and most knights were destined to die for the kingdom anyway. But Morris and Boris… they were just children! Just two foolish children. My mind flashed to the letter I had left my sister. The sun-charm around my neck pealed sweetly in the breeze. I looked into its depths… and a vague image swam before my eyes. I peered into it more closely, and the image rippled and became clearer.

     * * *

      Gold… a sea of gold. The reflection of the sun. A pair of violet eyes… And they faded and vanished, replaced by the pale blue walls of my bedchamber.

      Lisha was there, sitting on my bedspread with her head in her hands and staring at a spot on the floorboards. "Knock, knock," Called a voice in the hall. Lisha opened the door and wordlessly let Kayla in.

      Kayla flounced around the room for a minute, looking as cheery as ever. Lisha barely seemed to acknowledge that fact. She collapsed back onto my bed and continued to stare at that tiny brown spot. "Aww, come on, Lisha!" Kayla said, smacking her Aisha friend on the arm playfully. "I know you're upset about Morris and Boris going. So am I. But Jeran will protect them up there. Or they'll come to their senses and come back down to the castle, where it's safe."

      "I can't help but worry," Lisha replied dully, looking up for the first time in that vision. Judging by the bags under her eyes, she hadn't gotten much sleep. Upon further observation, I realized that her blouse and skirt were rumpled badly, and she didn't seem to care. "Jeran's out there risking his tail! Morris and Boris… suppose they never find Jeran? Or suppose Jeran is unable to protect them? Or suppose…"

      "Suppose nothing," Kayla interrupted. "This is about more than Jeran, Morris and Boris, right?"

      Lisha sighed, returning her gaze to that spot on the floor. "I wish I was out there. Fighting. Doing some good for Meridell. What's the use of being a warrior if I can't fight?"

      Kayla looked slightly taken aback. "Well, Lisha… we need someone defending the castle…"

      "That's an excuse, and you know it. Jeran asked Martin to let me 'guard the castle' so I wouldn't get hurt in the battle." Lisha muttered, rolling over on the bed and accidentally hitting her elbow on my night-table. The drawer opened a crack and a piece of paper peeked out. My letter to her. I cringed as she pulled it out of the drawer and read the front of the envelope. The only word on it was, "Lisha". My handwriting, distinct as spots on a spotted Pteri. She motioned for Kayla to leave. Sensing that something was amiss, Kayla moved towards the door wordlessly, but didn't exit. Lisha shot her friend a look that could whither crops, then opened the envelope. The sound of tearing paper seemed to tear through my heart as I watched her helplessly. She read:

My Dear Lisha,

      I don't know if I'll ever see you again. So this letter will say everything I wanted to say. I've done my best to look after you and your friends… But there comes a time when you have to look after yourself. You've all grown-up so much since you've arrived… since you fell into our world. When I'm gone, I want you to remember that the world is full of danger, but there is always hope. It may be hard to see, and you may have to fight for it, but no matter what happens to me, I'll always be there, watching over you. No matter what happens, I'll always be your big brother. Remember that. Goodbye, Lisha.

      A thousand thoughts I felt, rushing through her head in full force. Memories of us as children, racing through the forests, pretending we were knights. My pretend spear, made of a sturdy leaflet of tin foil tied to a stick. Her plastic rod of ultranova. The way we fought imaginary enemies together, just the two of us. And that fateful game of hide-and-seek, when she thought she had lost me forever…

      Years passed. Images flashing quickly as fleeting arrows. Meeting Morris and Boris in Neoschool. Meeting Kayla in the Bazaar. Keeping her dreams of becoming a knight alive. That museum trip, that picture. The tone of the museum curator's voice when he said, "This is the noble Sir Borodere who was unfortun…"

      Falling into Meridell. Meeting me again. The stinging pain inside of her when I didn't recognize her at first. And the pure joy of helping to restore my lost memory. Images of Hillary, Chuck Foxpaw, Kasha… Images of the rolling hills and rich fields and happy peasants of Meridell. And as her mind's eye passed over these pictures, I realized that this is what I was fighting for. The land of Meridell. It wasn't the flashiest or prettiest of Neopian worlds. But it was home. Home to me. Home to Lisha. Home to Kasha. Home to all of those peasants. This strange place called home…

      The images stopped. Again, I saw Lisha on my bed. A single tear crept down her cheek, glittering like a diamond in the sunlight. "Jeran would never be content living out his life until he was an old, decrepit Lupe," She said to Kayla. "He'd want it to be this way. Falling for Meridell."

      And then, she collapsed on my bed and cried.

      * * *

      And she was right.

      I couldn't join Kass, couldn't sit here being safe while my sister, my Lupess, and my homeland were in danger. I couldn't betray everything and everyone I loved. Slowly, I rubbed my eyes, clearing the last traces of the vision out of them. I looked up again to see the two rascals who had followed me up here. My sister's friends and, in essence, my friends too.

      "I'm sorry, guys," I whispered to Morris and Boris. "And I'm sorry, Danner."

      "It's okay, Jeran," Morris said softly. "We understand. It'll be… for Meridell."

      "I didn't expect to get through this battle anyway," Danner said with a sort of dry, morbid laugh.

      Boris nodded. "Neither did I. Just… do what you think is right."

      "So you're rejecting my offer?" Kass asked, his sword still hovering a meter above my head. "So be it. You'll be the first to…"

      "NO!" This was all too much for poor Morris to take. He dashed towards Kass full-speed, screaming at the top of his lungs. "Keep your filthy paws off of Jeran!"

      "Morris!" Boris cried, running after his Quiggle friend. "Stop!" It was no use. Morris was moving like a small green tank, and there was no stopping him. Boris gave a half-hearted shrug, as if to say, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Morris leaped frantically onto Kass's right arm, while Boris clung to Kass's left one.

      "Knock it off, guys!" I cried, realizing that their desperate actions would only make their own punishments worse. They ignored me and continued to cling, kicking and screaming.

      "Get off of me, you filthy Mootix!" Kass roared at Boris, wrenching his arm out of the vampire Blumaroo's grip, and sending the boy flying into a castle wall. He did the same to Morris, except in the opposite direction. Fear clenched my lungs, making it difficult to breathe, as Morris skidded towards the edge of the Citadel. Forgetting the enraged Lord Kass behind me, I darted towards the edge. I saw Morris's grip failing… slipping… and releasing. I reached downwards, and by some miracle, grabbed his wrist. And when I had it, I clung tightly, as though I were afraid that Morris might fall. Morris the innocent. Morris the brave.

      And as I hoisted him back onto the Citadel ground, the words in my letter to my sister flashed through my head. "There is always hope."

      "Cute," Kass said dryly. I turned with a start, realizing that he was right behind me. And he had regained his sword. "Very cute. But you would have been better off letting him fall, because when I'm done with that annoying little…" His voice built to a crescendo of wrath, revealing all of the bitterness deep inside of his heart. Hatred for Meridell. Anger for the thievery of the Orb. Fear of the Three. And his ever-growing need for vengeance. I felt a sharp pain on my shoulder as he unleashed this anger on me. Pieces of my armor flew. Fear gripped my lungs once again, and my heart beat so quickly, I thought it would burst. And I braced myself for the inevitable.

      My feet slipped… lost ground… slid off the edge of the Citadel. A few heart-stopping moments, during which I was falling, tumbling through space. Frantically, I grabbed for the edge of the Citadel. Caught it. I knew that it wouldn't make much of a difference. I looked up at Kass's triumphant face. Then down at Meridell, thousands of feet below. The drop made my stomach churn.

      Kass lowered his sword, a cruel, pitiless smile playing upon his beak. This was the moment he had been waiting for. The moment he had dreamed of. He was going to eliminate Meridell's greatest knight. His voice was like ice cubes down my back, his eyes like bright red blizzards. "Goodbye, Jeran."

      I looked down and closed my eyes in despair. If I had to go, it would not be of Kass's doing. I would not give him the satisfaction of claiming to kill me. "Goodbye Lisha," I whispered.

      Then, I let go.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part One
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Two
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Three
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die: Part Five
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Six

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