Invaders of Meridell: Part Two
Lori snarls. The arrow pierces her thick, leathery gold skin, and she twists, trying to dislodge it from her shoulder blade. Pesky arrow. Pesky Meridellian villager who sent the arrow. Pesky, annoying little dude with the shiny sword.
When the Moehogs were vanquished, Lori and all the other Draconian Techos decided that they would do much better. The Moehogs, after all, were weak. They didn't have the hard, impenetrable gold shell Techos did, the sharp, spiny exteriors, the gnashing, sharp white teeth. And so Lori immediately set off to do what she could. Destroy.
All she wishes to do was sack a village. Tear the houses apart. Sink her teeth into the trees and eat all the food. Break. Tear. Destroy.
But apparently she can't even do that. No, these stupid villagers--clawless, toothless, and spineless villagers--have to step in her way at every turn, not letting her even get near a single hut.
She reaches back with a claw, and rips the arrow out of her shoulder blade. It stings, but she can bear it. Grit your teeth and bear it, her good friend Tara, another Techo, used to say. She jumps, twists, to meet that annoying Moehog's silver sword.
They're both losing steam, but show no signs of giving up. Another growl rips out of behind Lori's teeth, and she can see sweat drops pour down the Moehog's face.
Just a few more seconds...
Then a mace crashes down on her head, painfully bruising her skin. She falls to the ground, stunned.
"Lori?" a familiar voice says from above her, and she struggles to right herself. "Is that you?"
Standing next to the Moehog is a blue Techo, smiling tentatively. She doesn't know any Techos from Meridell, but this one looks strangely familiar.
"Do I know you?" Lori says, suspiciously.
The other lets out a nervous laugh. "Yeah, I do look different. That happens when you change sides."
It hits Lori then. This is her best friend. Tara. The one who used to train with her, who used to enjoy burning villages and destroying farms. The one who had come to Meridell with her, but they had parted ways at that mountain, hoping to cover more territory.
And she's been converted. To a soldier of Meridell. How did this happen?
Tara explains. "There was nothing more. They are winning. It's strange, but they are. Before, I had no idea how they would possibly win--how they could--but now, I think it makes sense. You know why they're going to win?"
Lori shake her head, but suddenly, it becomes all too real. Her health is gone; she's too weak to stand up. And what for? Just to pillage a few villages? Just to steal a melon or two?
Tara looks so different, but her laugh is the same. Mocking, but understanding. "They actually have a reason to fight. They're fighting to keep their lives, their happiness. Their family and their home. What are we fighting for? Just for a challenge; entertainment. And it doesn't really matter who has the most experience or the sharpest claws. It's whoever has the better reason." She talks on for a while in the same vein. Earlier, Lori would dismiss it as brainwashing, but now she's not sure. It does sort of make sense.
"So," her former best friend says, "Are you with us?" She smiles. "Don't you understand, Lori--if this works, if we win--" Lori notes the use of the word 'we'-- "we'll have real homes. A real reason. A real life."
Plus, Mister Moehog-with-the-sharp-sword is standing right there. Don't think there's that much of a choice here.
Lori shrugs. "Okay."
And it really isn't that bad.
Taron grins as the new recruits, Lori and Tara, battle an invader. They don't have weapons, but it's two against one, and they should win. They aren't doing too badly.
Maybe eventually he can go home.
He thought he would once they beat the Moehogs. But then the Techos came. And they were so ferocious, and the villagers were so fearful, that he couldn't just leave him behind. His hands are now calloused and used to gripping the sword. He is beginning to get into the routine. But still... He misses his town. After the Moehogs came the Techos. After they defeat the Techos--which they will; there is only this last one--what will be next? Skeiths? Kougras? Pteris that swoop in and attack you from above?
How long will this last?
He rips himself out of his reverie as Lori and Tara, attacking at the same time, vanquish the last invader. They cheer, slapping each other high fives.
Bob and Willard have wandered in to watch the spectacle, while Kellie is lurking under some tall trees, muttering spells to herself. Meevy is nowhere in sight. The other three defenders join him on the ground, not saying anything, just enjoying the silence.
Eventually the cheering of a multitude of villagers reaches their ears. Taron looks up to see grateful, smiling Neopets suddenly filling up the area, some panting as if they've run hard from their villages. "Thank you," they murmur, over and over again.
Yes, it's worth it.
That wasn't that difficult, Sebastian thinks to himself. There were some issues in which health got dangerously low, especially with the Moehog and the Techo. This mission, however, the Grundo will have the scroll, and be able to heal. The thrill of the game livens up the blood in his old arteries.
He looks at the new board, old eyes gleaming. Let the game begin.
Meevy slouches, careful to look unconcerned and resentful as the other four discuss strategy excitedly. Actually, the excitement is beginning to get to her. Her gloomy prediction that they will lose, despite all efforts, is forgotten. She will do her best.
Just for the challenge of it, of course.
"Meevy!" Taron calls over to her. "Would you mind taking the eastern front with Kellie? There's just two invaders over there, maybe three if one moves over. You two should be able to handle it, but we just need to protect the village of Saltville from being sacked."
Meevy bristles at the insinuation that she might not be able to 'handle it', but grudgingly nods acquiescence. It'll be nice in the western area--just mountains and forests and that one small town. Plus, she'll only have quiet Kellie with her, so she won't have to put up with the constant chatter of Bob and Taron.
"Great," Taron says, smiling at her. She grits her teeth sarcastically back.
He turns back to the others, not noticing. "So I think we should cover this area, where most of them will be concentrated."
"Yeah," Willard agrees. "I could teleport over to the front there, and hold them off until the rest of you catch up? And then we could space out."
Bob shrugs. "Fine. I have a pretty good attack power, so I could be in the middle."
Meevy chuckles. He's so humble, she thinks to herself. "Come on," she says to Kellie, hoisting up her bow and quickening her walk to a lithe jog. "Let's get there quickly, so we can set up where we want to be and stuff before the invaders get there."
Kellie nods impassively, ducking her head, and follows on slow feet. Weird little Grundo.
Whatever. If her companion doesn't talk, Meevy can always just pretend she's by herself. And that's how she likes life.
"Woota Yupso Hooray Jake..." No. "Werta Uipso Hurae Jyekk..."
Kellie holds back a scream. Why can she not remember these stupid spells? She's supposed to be the enchanter of their quintet. She has her staff for defense and--supposedly--her grand knowledge of spells, passed down by generations of Grundos before her, to assist her in her quest to save Meridell.
The thing is, she stinks at it.
She feels horrible. A little farther ahead is Meevy, striding confidently with her bow and her skill. And here Kellie is, short and weak, always holds back in all the battles to make sure she doesn't lose all her strength.
She's not pulling her weight. And she knows it.
Not only because of her amount of saves. Taron and Bob are both Captains now, while even Willard is a Soldier. Kellie's just barely a Defender with six saves.
But even without the proof of numbers, she knows she's not as good at the rest.
She can't even make one simple spell work.
"Kellie?" Meevy calls back. "I see an invader up there. Do you want to get it or should I?"
"You go ahead," Kellie mutters, sitting down on a large rock. She watches as Meevy aims and, at a dangerously difficult distance, sends three arrows quivering into their target.
As her companion negotiates with the defeated Draconian Skeith, Kellie wanders over to the shrubbery, with no destination in mind. Her eyes alight onto something that looks like a piece of paper, under a bush.
Hmm. Kellie pokes at it with her foot, then reaches down and pulls it out. It's actually a white, parchment scroll, tied with a crisp blue ribbon. She knows what this looks like.
It looks like a spell.
Hands trembling, she pulls the ribbon off, and unrolls the scroll. Her trained eyes automatically translate the old language written on the old paper in a sloped, dramatic handwriting. "Magic Force Spell," it says at the top.
"Alleyu Tahasa Nututuri..." she begins, reading off the long spell. The nonsensical words slip off of her tongue like musical notes, like she's had it memorized for ages and just been waiting to say it. When she reaches the end, she hears an exclamation, and looks up.
Meevy has suddenly jumped up, apparently newly invigorated, but shocked. "What happened?" she says sharply, meeting Kellie's eyes.
"I'm not sure," Kellie returns, but says it louder than usual, and doesn't look down. Somehow, saying the spell has made her more self-assured. "I found this spell, and tried it out. I think it might be a health spell--you know, one that gives you more energy and endurance. It could help."
Meevy looks surprised, her face lit up in one of those rare moments. "Really? That could be a big help. You could be behind the rest of us and keep our health up as we fight. We'll be practically immortal!"
Kellie smiles, maybe for the first time.
Maybe she can help.
Willard groans. He hates running around. He misses the comfort of just laying sprawled on some glade, without thoughts of "let's go get that invader" or "health is down, gotta back off".
Bob collapses next to him. "We beat them," he says, grinning broadly. "Beat those invaders. For the third time. These Skeiths weren't bad at all. I got several of them. Cool, huh?"
Willard groans again. Seems like he's just speaking in groans nowadays. "I don't know. When you get to be my age, you see one, you see them all. Also when you get to be my age, all you want to do is go home."
This offends the sprightly blue Techo. "But it's a good cause. Stop being so negative, Willy."
Willard groans for the third time and lifts himself up. The kid is getting annoying. Plus he doesn't like being called Willy. "Yeah, whatever," he grunts. "Sure, it's a good cause. It was a good cause this time, and it'll be a good cause next time. And in the next invasion, and the next. But when does it end? Will 'good cause' keep us going forever?"
Without waiting for an answer, he leaves. There should be some good food at one of those celebratory parties at the nearest village.
Sebastian is hungry. He's earned some Neopoints for saving the villagers, and he isn't sure when was the last time he ate.
Should he take a break before continuing? He's at the fourth mission, when it begins to get difficult. There are eight invaders and he only has his five defenders. But really, he's tired and his eyes are weary. His brain is worn out too. He'll do better with a night's sleep and a full stomach.
He leaves the game there as he begins to stroll towards Meri Acres Farm. He can usually get a nice meal from his acquaintance the farmer. What is his name again?
After a filling meal of bread and marrow salad, he climbs up the now-dark hill back to his spot in the woods. The pieces are just as he left it, but his full stomach is persuading him to lie down on the soft ground and take a nap.
He'll play afterwards, once he's nice and refreshed.
And tomorrow he'll begin Mission Four.
To be continued...