A Peace that Would Last One Thousand Years?: Part Two
"And you are here...why?" Lord Darigan asked Jeran, who
was standing nervously in front of the Citadel lord's throne.
"I...I am here seeking the truth," Jeran declared,
trying to keep his composure in the face of an enemy that he was unsure whether
he would rather run away from or push off the highest spire in the Citadel.
"King Skarl has been given a strange...shall I say, revelation, from a mystery
figure, though I hope it is incorrect... I hope to prevent something rather
drastic, especially if this prophecy is false."
"Whatever could you be on about?" Darigan growled.
"I don't much enjoy it when my time is wasted, especially by Meridellian scum
"I apologize, sir, but this is extremely important.
King Skarl has been warned, by a ghostly Skeith, of an attack planned on Meridell
Castle, a Darigan attack!" Jeran rushed through the last words, not really wanting
to say them.
"Why that...!" Darigan hissed, stopping suddenly.
"Continue speaking," he commanded Jeran, wishing to hear what else the Lupe
might have to say.
"I myself am hesitant to put my trust in the
Skeith's words, especially considering that I myself have seen a similar, untrustworthy
character. I fear that Skarl may be being hypnotized into blithely believing
the Skeith's words. He ignored all of my evidence to the contrary, and has already
called Meridell to arms. I was hoping that I could forestall a third war," Jeran
"You are correct in your mistrust of the Skeith,
and your similar figure. They are both likely members of The Three, the true
architects of both wars between Darigan and Meridell. I have yet to discover
their true motivation, but it seems likely that they wish for the destruction
of Meridell, as well as my own demise. Skarl would, of course, be the perfect
tool for them- I doubt that weak-willed Skeith could escape from their tight
grasp over his mind. I am truly sorry, but your hopes for peace cannot be realized,
as we cannot break their spell over Skarl, and he is unlikely to break it himself.
Darigan must defend itself," Darigan sighed.
Jeran felt absolutely horrible. Here he was,
stuck between two impossible choices. If he did his duty as a knight, fighting
for Meridell, and Darigan was correct, it would mean serving the greatest evil
in Neopia, and the eventual destruction of not only the country he was trying
to defend, but also everyone he came to care for, including his sister, Lisha.
If he sided with Darigan, not only would it mean the greatest dishonour as a
knight, but also having to fight against the very knights he trained himself,
his King, and Lisha. And there was always the possibility that Darigan was lying,
as the revenge-seeking part of Jeran was quick to remind him. What was a knight
to do? What was a brother to do? What was a hero to do?
"Wonderful situation, isn't it, hero?" Darigan
asked sarcastically. "Carry out your duty to your country unto its destruction,
or betray your country in hopes that it may be saved. If you trust me, I will
need insurance of your loyalty," he said, conjuring a potion. "If you drink
this, I will accept you as a defender of Darigan, even as a champion. You will
have your chance to plead a case in front of my army, for the safety of the
innocent people of Meridell. You will be in a position to stop this conflict
from destroying your country. If you reject, I will allow you to slink away
back down to Meridell, go back to your miserable old life as if I had never
met with you. You will lose your influence with my army, and Meridell will likely
end up in ruin for a third, and perhaps final, time. Make your choice."
Jeran hesitated for a moment. He had deliberated
on his choices, and had come to a conclusion, though not a fully satisfying
one, though with this kind of decision, neither choice could be fully satisfying.
He reached out his hand slowly, and took the potion from Darigan, keeping eye
contact with the Citadel's ruler, looking for something, a glint in the eye,
anything at all that would give away any kind of deception. Finding none, Jeran
took the stopper out of the potion bottle, tossing it aside. It would be so
easy just to pour the potion out on the ground, defy Darigan, and forget this
meeting had ever happened. The shadowy Gelert tried to get Jeran to pour the
potion out onto the ground, whispering that the potion was only a trap. This
just pushed Jeran harder in the direction he had already decided on.
"Forgive me, Lisha," Jeran whispered, downing
Darigan's potion. For a moment, nothing happened. Jeran continued watching Darigan's
face, looking for a victorious look that would foretell his demise, but there
was nothing there. Was this simply a test of his trust, where Jeran's faith
in Darigan's good will, rather than the potion's contents, were the most important?
It soon became clear to Jeran, however, that the Citadel's ruler required far
more than trust.
Jeran fell to his knees, gasping for breath.
It felt as if his whole body was on fire, as if he was being torn apart from
the inside out. All he could think was, I've been tricked. He struggled just
to keep himself conscious, standing upright. The last thing he wanted was to
give Darigan the pleasure of having his enemy laying helpless, but this time,
not even Jeran's fighting spirit was enough to prevail. He collapsed to the
floor time and time again, attempting to keep standing but failing. He found
himself barely able to speak the words he wished to say.
"Traitor...I trusted you!" Jeran whispered. And
with that, the nearly invincible knight found himself completely helpless to
stay within his own body. Darigan stood over the Lupe's body, victorious. Turning
to a Darigan Lupe next to him, Darigan said, "Now we are ready to put our plans
into motion," and both of them walked out, leaving the body of a Blue Lupe knight
King Skarl paced around his throne room for what
had to be the hundredth time that day. Where was Jeran? Skarl found it hard
to believe that his most trusted advisor would just desert him at the time when
he needed him the most. Jeran was necessary for Meridell to be able to fight
against Darigan, and Skarl wanted Jeran's strategy for the conflict. Why
had Jeran left earlier, Skarl thought, especially before giving mr a
Skarl was suddenly snapped from his thoughts
by the sight of a now familiar figure- that ghostly Skeith from earlier! This
time, however, there were two others with the Skeith- a Faerie and a Gelert,
both just as shadowy and unreal as the one Skarl had already seen. The Gelert
seemed to be hiding behind the other two- Skarl could only see his head.
"What are you doing here?!" the King demanded.
"I am Skarl, King of Meridell! How dare you intrude on my privacy! I should
call for my guards!"
"But, King," said the Skeith, "this is important.
You want to know where Jeran, your knight and advisor, has gone. We know."
The Faerie continued from where the Skeith left
off, speaking in a voice that was sweet like honey, a voice that could be used
to make an unsuspecting victim believe or do anything. "We know that your knight
Jeran is lost. He attempted to scout out the Citadel, to find out whether or
not Darigan would attack, but was discovered. Darigan was most unpleased. I
am sorry for your loss, good King."
The Gelert then stepped forward, out from behind
the other two. In his arms was what he had hidden for the entire time-a limp
Blue Lupe knight, wearing a tunic and a light chain mail vest.
Skarl sadly stepped onto the balcony from which
he made his royal proclamations, looking over the crowd of Meridellians who
had come to meet his previous call to arms. "Today is a sad day indeed for Meridell,"
he sighed. "Jeran Borodere, Meridell's champion, bravely risked his life to
discover if and when Darigan would attack us. Unfortunately, he has...fallen."
The crowd let out a gasp. Lisha, in her seat
of honor near King Skarl, looked on unbelievingly. Her Jeran Borodere, who she
had only regained such a short time ago, her only brother, gone forever? She
could not believe it! He had promised her, promised her that he would always
protect her, that he would never leave her again. Jeran was much too strong
to be defeated like that! Jeran could not loose to such a one as Darigan! But,
as much as she fought against it, the inevitable realization came over her-
Jeran was gone. And, for only the second time in Meridell, the strong Lisha,
veteran and hero of two wars in Meridell, began to cry.
To be continued...