The Tale of Galgarrath
The sky was considered a privilege in the jail-like room.
Neopets of all shape and color and size darted around the frigid cell, waiting, wishing, wanting. Despite the clear distinctness in each one of them, all of their eyes housed one similarity; a dull, gray glint. Of hope.
Well, that was mostly correct. Some of the elderly pets, who had aged gracelessly in the pounds of Neopia, had lost the feeling of anxiousness they had as youths. After tasting abandonment countless times, they finally gave up, almost appearing pessimistic.
Others just knew. Or, ‘other’ to be more accurate (although it is grammatically incorrect).
He just knew. Actually, he had always known.
Born a red Grarrl, he spent his days by the side of his owner, faintly remembered as a young man by the name of Erren. The bright eyed, dark haired human treated him like a brother, an equal.
He had loved Erren.
But humans, the crimson pet had come to realize, did not form such attachments so quickly. Day after day Erren seemed to be more and more distant. The young boy rarely even spoke to him at one point.
And, finally, one night, he did not come home to the cottage.
The night melted into day, which seeped into several more lonely, charcoal skies.
It was only when the Draik guards had woken him from his nightmare-drenched slumber and dragged him to the filthy pound that he realized he didn’t know his own name.
- - -
It turned out Erren had left Neopia.
After listening around, soaking up all the information from the whispers of the pound-dwellers, the Grarrl learned that his leaving the world of Neopia was not a rarity.
Apparently many young folk find themselves bored and detached from living in a world for such a long period of time. So, in resolve, they simply up and leave, not once caring for the pets or families they leave behind.
He never wanted to hear a word of it. But, somehow, it had made sense.
The unwelcome shivers continued to trail down his spine.
- - -
He was unsure how long he had been in the Meridellian Pound when he was confronted by a young Uni. She had fierce green eyes, a seafoam-tinted mane, and a pretty smile that literally screamed that she didn’t belong in such a forlorn place.
“So, I’m Anna. I’ve seen you here for a while. What’s your name?”
The Grarrl had been taken aback by her bluntness, but most of all her altogether easy-going attitude. He had felt rather isolated from the rest of the pounded population; he almost felt feared.
At first, no words found their way to his lips. He was at a loss. In all of his memories, he could not once pick up a distinct name he had been called by. But, judging from her quirked eyebrow and the countless curious pets surrounding them, he decided he must say something.
“Erren,” he announced, the name said with unintentional bitterness. “I’m Erren.”
Instead of dishing out a saucy remark, she simply nodded contentedly, her smile unwavering.
As Anna prattled to the meal area, ’Erren’ could’ve sworn he saw sadness swim in her softened eyes.
The pound, Erren came to realize, was an unfair game.
Only the most attractive, the loveliest of pets were even given a second glance. Pets who lacked coats of exotic colors were usually shunned, unless exceptionally bright or talented.
Erren decided he was neither.
He spent his days in the cold corners of his quarters, staring into nothing, simply waiting for whatever Neopia had in store for him. The Grarrl remembered hearing how pounds were not meant to hurt the pet, and should simply serve as a temporary living place. Instantly, he shook those thoughts out of his mind. It did no good to doubt Meridellian authority.
So, he simply decided to remain a spectator of the adopted pets. He barely knew any of them. Never had the red pet felt so alone.
- - -
“Here, take this. You must be hungry.”
Erren jerked slightly, surprised by the contact. He never quite got used to being surrounded by so many neopets. But, somehow, after Fyora knows how long, he managed to get along slightly with a handful of them. They formed sort of a group. It was mostly Anna’s doing, however, he admitted sheepishly.
A small smile graced his crimson mouth, and he made sure not to bare his sharp canines. He gratefully accepted the apple from the Zafara, whom he remembered as Fayte. The blue pet had been in there for almost as long as Erren, and he seemed oddly calm about it.
“It’s not so bad,” he said one day, a silly grin on his face. “At least I’m not alone.”
And then, for the first time since he made it there, which could’ve been years for all he remembered, Erren gave a genuine smile.
- - -
The name ‘Darigan’ was introduced to Erren for the first time during a spring lunch. The guards, who rarely ever were around anymore, had been speaking of them.
“They're coming for us someday soon, y’know. Ever since Skarl’s been eyeing that ol’ Lord Darigan’s orb, it’s been madness. I’m pretty sure our king’s going to nab it any day now.”
The Kacheek nodded at his Kyrii partner in agreement. But before the conversation could continue any longer, an unheard call caused them to leave.
An odd silence had drowned out the imprisoned pets, and it was unsurprisingly Anna who spoke.
“You hear that, guys?! This is our chance! Meridell can’t afford to waste strong pets on guarding a pound, even though it’s pretty much a prison anyways. Without those nosy jerks supervising us, it’ll be a piece of cake to get out of here.”
The difference between her loud voice and the draining silence was huge, and oddly frightening. Erren prayed someone would speak soon. He was unable to say a word; shocked at her ideas to say the least.
To the lack of response, Anna sighed, and spoke again, her voice softer. “Who’s with me?”
This time, a sharp, young voice was heard before silence could return. “I sure am. C’mon, guys... this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. To be free.”
A few whispers, a nod here and there. Smiles. Grins.
Erren remained silent all the while.
- - -
It was three days before the scheduled ‘plan’.
The green Uni’s riot the week before seemed to have awakened something in all of the pounded neopets that would not be put to sleep. They wanted out, and they wanted out now. It took almost all of their strength not to knock down the walls now and run madly.
But the Grarrl remained impassive; unsure. He didn’t really want to defy anybody, and at the same time did not wish to go against the only pets who were even close enough to be considered ‘friends’. So, sitting alone on a dark day, he nodded softly to himself.
Soon enough, however, the solitary silence was broken by none other than Anna. How long ago was it since they met? Years?
“Erren!” she called loudly. He snapped out of his thoughts, surprised by her harsh tone.
She sighed again, her pretty eyes soft. “I’ve been saying your name over and over again for the past few minutes... you zoned out back there...”
There was more she wanted to say, he could tell. “And...?”
“You don’t have a name, Erren! Am I right?” she cried. “All those years back, you were lying to us. You don’t know who you are... do you...?”
Erren was both shocked and awed at the revelation of her sheer intelligence. How could she know? And how could she remember his hesitance at his identity years earlier? She had no idea how right she was about him.
But no reply came.
Pressing on, the determined Uni continued. “Erren... please. Come with us. We’ll get out, you’ll get a name. A life. Humans, they don’t care about us. We’ll be free. Please, please...”
He sat, rigid, unsure what to say. For the life of him, he had no clue how to reply to that. So, he didn’t.
Anna left the room, content with his trembling nod.
- - -
“Get them, get them, you fools!”
A huge group of Meridellian guards surged after the fugitive pets. Their escape had not gone as planned; apparently King Skarl had many more soldiers than they had originally anticipated.
The runaway pets scrambled throughout the grasses and fields of Meridell. Countless farmers and merchants turned curious eyes towards the scraggly lot, wondering just what was going on.
Fayte was sprinting. Anna was shrieking. A young pair of Kacheeks, Ella and Mara, were tumbling. Everyone was frightened.
But Erren, Erren was simply standing.
He was harshly grabbed by the shoulder, spited and yelled at by the guard who captured him.
There was no resistance on Erren’s part. He simply watched; ghostly, dead eyes lingering on his friends. Anna, being pulled viciously by her once sparkling mane, screaming so loudly that it pounded through his mind. Fayte, sparring against guards, and countless others running and throwing clumsy punches.
Closing his eyes, he mumbled a silent apology to them all.
- - -
After returning from that fateful night, Erren never saw a single one of them again. When he asked about his pound-mates, the guard simply scoffed and muttered ‘gone.’ Knowing asking them directly was no use, he eavesdropped on conversations. Apparently they were relocated to pounds in far away lands. Separated. Gone.
In this time of loneliness, Erren found himself in and out of the pound. Darigan apparently waged war with Meridell; Skarl had finally stolen the precious orb of their leader. Thanks to his surprising strength and apparent knack for battle, the red Grarrl was deemed useful by the civilians. He was used to protect countless families from the ‘evil’ Darigan forces.
But, as he fought, it didn’t feel right. No matter how hard he searched, he found no evil or malice in the pets he battled with. Erren knew he was on the wrong side; the war was at the fault of Meridell, and he knew it.
Without spirit, the Grarrl lacked the power he needed. Countless battles were lost, and soon enough he found himself in the pound, which he almost dubbed ‘home.’
It was so familiar to him; the cold, metallic walls, the tiny rooms, the plethora of pets toppled over each other. And yet, it was so different from the place he first touched upon as a child so many years back. There was a new wave of pets, no longer those he grew up with. It was broken. Pieces of a memory.
- - -
Erren awoke to a loud, painful groan. Eyes snapping open, he scanned the premises, until his gaze landed on an unconscious guard. A shiver ran down his spine when he spotted the trio of Darigans surrounding the fallen Kacheek.
The abandoned pets behind him, most of them youths, were shivering madly, obviously frightened.
But, oddly enough, the past fear in Erren disappeared. He found his voice. “What do you want from us?”
A Darigan Techo, eyes sparkling, long tongue licking at his lips, spoke. “Mm, well, if it isn’t our little prodigy. You shouldn’t be so modest, you know. It’s rather obvious, why we came here.”
Erren’s throat went dry, but continued to play dumb. “If it’s the orb you're looking for, it’s not here.”
A sharp cackle came from behind the Techo. The deep crimson eyes and tousled raven locks of a Darigan Uni were revealed, and Erren almost felt his words hitch in his throat. The neopet had an eerie resemblance to Anna.
“So naïve,” she giggled. The laugh was sharp and mocking. “We’ve seen what you can do. You are an amazing fighter. Our Lord Darigan happens to want you to serve him.”
He froze up. Erren knew, he knew he was supposed to refuse, prove his loyalty to Meridell. And yet, what did he owe the land that shunned him, locked him up? This was his chance to shine for Meridell, but he couldn’t bring himself to it. His answer was spoken before he realized it.
- - -
The land of Darigan was easily distinguishable from the neighboring lands of Meridell and Brightvale. It was dark, clammy, and most of all cold. Yet, there was something about it that was much different than Meridell. In a good way.
As Erren trudged behind the three Darigans, he was subject to no harsh glares or whispers. No, the pets continued with their lives, as if he had always been there. Maybe he was pondering on useless things. It’s not like he stood out in appearance; before they left, he was made to drink an elixir. His skin darkened from bright red to a deep crimson, shriveling around the edges. Yet, as foreign as this new appearance was to him, Darigan felt more like a home in his few minutes there than Meridell ever had. No longer pieces, but cross stitches coming together.
- - -
“What is your name, Grarrl?”
Lord Darigan’s voice was filled with power and demand, yet laced with a discrete softness that Erren found oddly comforting. He exhaled quietly, pondering on an answer. It seemed like just yesterday when the exact request had been asked of by Anna. The memories stung; he almost always tried to avoid thinking of his friends. So, instead of hand-picking out a lie, he said what he had been too frightened to admit to himself decades back.
“I don’t have one, sir.”
Darigan stared at him oddly for a moment (Erren could have sworn he saw a hint of pity), and began tapping his chin. “Ah, so you don’t? Well, no worries! I suppose, as our general, we must simply give you one.”
The now deep-crimson fleshed pet’s eyes widened at the term ‘general’. Was he really that worthy? Did Darigan truly see him as someone who mattered that much?
The name was spoken by the Uni-girl from before. A light blush dusted her aubergine cheeks when she realized what she had just said. “Oh. I’m sorry, Lord Darigan!” She gave a clumsy bow.
The Grarrl turned to her, surprised by her lack of confidence. This wasn’t the sassy pet with the jutting laugh he had met in Meridell.
And as she began staring at the ground in embarrassment, eyes sad, it wasn’t a dark, angry neopet he saw, but a bright eyed, emerald-green Uni with a friendly smile. If he squinted hard enough, he could see a blue Zafara boy, and group of other determined neopets.
He cast his gaze away. At this moment, Darigan chose to speak.
“Mm, I actually quite like it, Britta. Don’t you, general?”
Thinking of Britta’s embarrassed frown, the Grarrl’s lips quirked slightly and he nodded his head. “I do as well, sir. It’s a wonderful name.”
Britta gawked at him for a moment, shocked, to say the least. But, her trembling gape was soon shaped into a bright smile that suited her much more nicely. Darigan gave a nod, beaming, proud to have a new warrior. The guards smirked, glad to have a new companion
And, then there was Galgarrath.
He could feel a loose stitch in his heart being tightened.