Number Five: Part One
Casting a dark shadow over the rolling hills over Meridell is a terrifying Citadel -- but the Citadel isn't what horrifies Neopians everywhere; its inhabitants do.
No, I am not talking about Lord Kass, who is very, very, intimidating -- especially when he catches Meridellian Knights trying to invade --... But this -- creature -- can dishearten the most noble of soldiers, shake the most evil of evil, and send chills up one's spine. He's known only by his terrible, despicable number... Five.
Imagine the terror I conceived upon seeing him -- I was a bold and courageous knight; overpowered by guards when I attempted to lay a heroic siege to the Citadel in the name of Meridell. Sadly, they weren't quite as excited about my siege as I was, and Lord Kass adopted me into his wonderful 'family' giving me a new cell to live in along with other prisoners from Meridell. As they led me to my new home, my eyes grew wide, when I saw my cellmate: a ragged Lupe, almost rhythmically banging an old stick on the cracked stone wall. Along with the banging, I could hear a scratchy, almost whispered voice divulge something about a magical world of jelly. I was quite sheepish around him at first.
But as seasons have come and gone, fear has loosened its cold grasp in my mind, and has almost been replaced with a certain pity for Number Five. He spends his long and light-less days trapped in a cell -- much, much longer than I have--; he might have been a hero -- once... but those days are long past. It's hard to see a brave and fearless hero trapped in this crazy, cane-banging, delirious Lupe. He also seems to mumble fondly of a place known to him as 'Jelly World.' From what I can understand from his mumbles, Jelly World is a land entirely composed of jelly -- jelly buildings, jelly paths, jelly trees, jelly mountains, and a jelly volcano. Even the inhabitants are made of jelly! It's quite absurd, but he seems absolutely confident that he has been there. Although I do almost pity him, I am still terrified of the old coot, lightless days trapped in a cell on the Citadel can make one go crazy -- What would happen if Number Five were to just snap one day?
At least, he was a delirious Lupe... until one day -- when my puzzling question was answered --; an intense game of Cellblock was unfolding between Master Vex and Number Five. I could see Master Vex lip trembling and sweat dripping down his brow, terrified that his first loss was on the verge of reality. Number Five, was focusing with the utmost concentration; a break from his usual stick-banging and mutterings about a Jelly World.
Then suddenly, he broke his focus away from the game -- as if something in his brain had just snapped. Number Five began to talk in what must have been one of the most eloquent voices one had ever had the pleasure of letting dance through their ears; much better than the disturbing mumbling about Jelly World, that I was so used to!
And not only was he quite well-spoken, he had quite the earful to say. Perplexed, all of the other prisoners -- and even the guards -- listened intently to the crazy Lupe's tale.
"I, once, though it may be hard to believe now... was a young Lupe, who was passionate about adventure. I was full of strength and courage, ready to set off to unknown places; everything a young Lupe is known to be. I knew the vast, grand world of Neopia had so much to offer to me. Nowadays, I fancy going back to that time -- much better than this dreadful cell in the Citadel --; but when I was that young, I absolutely abhorred it -- because of my family's lack of wealth--, and couldn't wait to grow up.
Sadly, as I previously stated, my family was destitute -- we owned a rock farm. Our living quarters were no more than a simple hovel, which showed signs of years and year's rainfall. There were many a hole in the roof, along with broken windows and doors, which complemented the cracking walls nicely. Inside wasn't much of an improvement, the furniture was haphazardly constructed out of straw and rope.
The only thing I enjoyed about the property was the vast amounts of field, housing our many rocks. There I could go to let my imagination run wild and free, which mine was especially adept at. One day I was a fearless pirate, plundering treasure all across Neopia. The next day I was an adventurer, discovering the great treasure hidden deep within the Lost Tombs of Geraptiku. The next, I was a famous general in the Meridell army, known as the one who defeated the fearsome Lord Kass. And the next-- well you get the idea... I sincerely apologize for letting my mind run off with me.
Then, life became even more difficult after my father was conscripted into the Meridell army. The army had increasing suspicions about a possible attack from their rival, the Darigan Citadel. My father spent his days training away, making less of a pittance of a salary than he did working the rock fields. What extra he did make was immediately sent to us, but my mother and I could barely scrape by on a few Neopoints a week. I also was forced to take over my father's duties at the farm, another reason I disliked my childhood so.
School was the one place I had time to be a young, adventurous Lupe, but life was hard there too. All of the other young Neopets looked at me with harsh eyes filled with scorn; I was the poor rock farmer's child. Their parents gave them the idea that if they conversed with me, they might catch my poverty. I didn't really mind -- I was lonely -- but I had quite the imagination; I was perfectly alright cavorting by myself.
Until one day, when Tunac, whose father was one of Meridell's famous generals stood up in front of the class wearing a smug grin -- one I will never forget. At the front of the room he loudly falsified, 'Rock Boy's dad isn't really a soldier, he carries the equipment!' The entire class sneered; I even believe the teacher got a small laugh at my expense. I desperately wanted to stand up for my father -- he was a hard worker, always ready to defend his home land --, but the scornful eyes of the other children made me and my family feel insignificant. My mouth dried up, and I didn't have the courage to say a thing...
By lunch that day, the torment had become absolutely unbearable -- I couldn't imagine King Hagan, the wise and powerful, would be able to survive such torture. I was eating leftover jelly -- swindled away from the rubbish dump, no less. I was desperately lonely, searching for a friend... just someone I could talk too. Out of desperation, I began to talk to it and slowly it became my only friend.
After about a week of long chats with my new-found friend, I determined that I couldn't stay on the rock farm forever; I was a young Lupe, filled with endless potential. I had to find out my purpose in the world -- I certainly hoped it didn't involve the inheritance of the rock farm business.
I wrote my mother a quick good-bye note, "Dear Mother, I am off to see the world; travel the seas wherever the wind directs my sails. I will miss you and father terribly, but I abhor school and the loneliness of it all. I want to know what's in store for me outside of Meridell. It's hard for me to leave, but I feel it's a journey I must make. I hope everything goes well for you and father. I will return home soon!"
I hoped my mother would still be able to manage the farm without me -- rock farms are harder to manage than they seem --, but I was determined to go on this journey; I had to find out who I was to become.
With that last bit of determination, I finished the note by writing, "Your loving son."
Tears streamed down my face as a packed a few rations -- sadly it was only a pittance of stale crackers -- for my journey, along with my gelatinous friend and the pirate headband I constructed for him. This would be the last time I'd see my home for quite some time. Although, one wind storm could have knocked the fragment of a house over, it was still my home and I would miss it.
My friend and I stepped out the broken door, and started into the warm sunlight. I wiped away the tears from my eyes, ready to take on the whole of Neopia. As I heard the crunching of grass beneath my feet, I knew I had taken the first steps of my long journey ahead of me. There was no turning back now..."
To be continued...