Getting to Know the Meridellian Legacies - Duchess
This is my first Neopian Times Story, heavily inspired by Meridell and Jeran. I hope you like it!
Jeran stood there glancing at the open, fresh, quiet field in front of him. His ears twitched at every sound he heard – even the faintest sounds made him twitch. He had his armor at the ready, his sword gripped tightly but slippery with sweat in his hand. His heart pounded as he stared at the other side awaiting his enemies. In the background armor shifted and fresh untouched souls waited to launch themselves into the heat of battle. Among them was a certain female Wocky who had come a long way since her childhood. She was now twenty-four and skilled in the ways of the sword. She remembered when she was little she had a decent understanding of magic but she realized magic was the wrong path for her. The path she needed to take was with the sword and she took it.
But she didn't realize the path would take her here.
"Sir Jeran," she began, walking up next to him. "Where is he?"
"I don't know," Jeran said back, uncertainty and false bravery in his voice.
Jeran was eighteen when he fought in the Battle of Meridell but that was twenty long years ago. He was now the ripe age of thirty eight and getting too old for his job although he was still skilled at it. And after all those years of training, he still didn't have an answer for those under him who asked him where the enemy was. However, he was about to say something else regarding his actual fear when suddenly the ground began to tremble slightly. Duchess, using her sword to keep her ground, looked up and to no surprise she saw the terrifying Eyrie that Jeran had supposedly done away with years ago.
"Lord Kass..." she hissed under her breath.
His arrival still didn't explain why the ground was trembling, although the huge petpets carrying the catapults on their backs answered her and everyone else's question. Jeran regained his ground and swallowed his fear, pointing his sword upward towards Kass's flying unit. At the signal the army all readied themselves to be flung into a mass conflict once again. Duchess braced herself, her muscles and body tensing up under her armor. Jeran's voice rang out loud and clear as he gave the order to launch attack.
"Meridell, now is the time to choose! Turn back now and live in dishonor! Or fight for your country and defend it with your life! Which do you choose?!"
Loud roars from the crowd boomed across the field all basically saying they'd rather die in honor than live in dishonor. Jeran grinned and thrust his arm out, his sword pointing to the Citadel.
"Meridell! Attack!" he roared, storming the field and racing up the hill.
Duchess used to be in Jeran's patrol after she showed extensive excellence in sword combat. However, she'd recently become an official knight – worthy enough now to lead her own patrol. She gathered her soldiers and quickly went over her plan with them. She hadn't told Jeran this or anybody else for that matter, but her plan was to go for the root of the problem – Lord Kass. Her soldiers stared at her like she was insane.
"Miss Duchess, I don't mean to be defiant, but Sir Jeran himself could not defeat Lord Kass alone. He had help from an Air Faerie. What if you go to where he was and all to your demise? Then what?"
"Petra," Duchess began, "Jeran is a great knight and an amazing swordsman. But I will be better than him. I must be better than him. Last time it was said he did away with that darigan freak. But Kass is back and he's trying to take Meridell away from us. I must be better than Jeran was at ridding Neopia of Kass. If I'm not then I fall to my end. That is that.
"Meanwhile, until I get to Kass I want you all to cover me. I'll be going to some of the toughest soldiers so I expect you all to be prepared. Remember – all healers and magic users are to be in the back lines. All of those who can take a hit are to be defending them in the front lines. No exceptions!"
"Yes ma'am!" her patrol rang.
"Now, let's win this thing!"
With those last words, Duchess led her patrol into exhausting battles. She ran with her sword out mentally noting that Kass had landed somewhere in the mass crowd of people dueling it out. She wasted no time with petty battles and just used her shield to block a stray spear or sword and even an arrow or two if she had to. Suddenly she heard an all too familiar cackle among the crowds and ran toward it. Sure enough at the end of the cackling noise was Kass himself – decked out in his shiny armor with his shiny sword and his patrol of really strong outcasts and misguided neopets. She ran up to him and was about to strike when her sword was blocked by a serious looking Xweetok. This female soldier appeared to be of the cleric class and yet she had a strong physical sense about her.
"I'll never let you get to our Lord, Meridellian scum!"
"Too bad. Today I have a set in stone agenda and I plan on meeting your boss for a little one on one time!" she growled, jumping back as two of her soldiers took this cleric head on.
Duchess was a little shocked with how well this cleric dealt with harsh, blunt attacks. Her soldiers were shocked too as they had not expected a magic user to be so well equipped for battle like this. The cleric jumped in the air extending her leg upward toward the sky and smirking devilishly as some sort of magic force went around her two soldiers and hit them six or seven times. They knelt down as they tried to regain their composure, however before they could stand up straight again the cleric busted out some super-fast punches and kicks ending her barrage of attacks with that same magic spell. Duchess growled as she watched her soldiers groan as they were defeated, her own healers unable to do anything about it since it was too late.
"If you want something done right," the Xweetok remarked, "you must do it yourself."
"Oh, I'm going to do it myself, alright," Duchess spat.
Duchess ran toward the cleric and jumped upward using her as a wall and propelled herself backward. She landed on her feet perfectly and ran toward the muddled cleric for her finishing strike. Honestly, she didn't intend to end this neopet's life like most people on the battlefield, but she just wanted to knock her out so she wouldn't be a problem anymore. The cleric gulped as she saw what appeared to be a silhouette of the female soldier bringing her blade down to finish the battle. She felt a hard thump on her head and instantly fell to ground, knocked out. Duchess had actually hit her with the hilt of her sword – not exactly painless but it did the trick. She sighed at her fallen soldiers and led her remaining patrol further toward Kass.
Unsurprisingly she had to fight ten more guards of his and lose five more of her patrol before she finally made it to Kass himself. She hid behind a nearby rock and checked on her remaining patrol. They started out with thirty people – five healers, three mages and all the rest various forms of armored soldiers. Now they were down to three clerics, two mages and the others soldiers. It was better than Duchess thought it would be worse by the time she got here. Luckily for her, though, she wasn't facing Kass on his ground – oh no, he was on her territory - just how she liked it. He was currently facing the opposite direction of Duchess giving her an option.
Go the easy route and attack him now or surprise him and face him head on. She backed up a little before racing toward him and jumping up, bouncing him his back earning a shocked shout from his as the wind was knocked from his lungs. She grinned as she landed on the ground as she had done with the first cleric they'd fought. It was now night time, however, and it was storming in the distance. When they first started it was about three o'clock in the afternoon – now it was nine o'clock at night. Kass turned around pointing his sword at the person who pulled that little stunt on him like that and was quite surprised to see Duchess. He grinned and pulled his sword back.
"And where is Jeran?" he asked.
"Fighting on his own, just like I am. I'm not an apprentice anymore – I can fight without him supervising me."
"Are you quite sure? You're not as experienced as he is, you know. You can't be better than him. And I almost sent him to his end from my citadel... had that pesky faerie not gotten in my way."
"Forget faeries! I'm in your way now and I don't plan on letting you win this time! You're on my ground and I'm going to win! Meridell will rise again from this terrible wave of depression you've put us in and we will be successful!"
"Kind of difficult to "rise again" and "be victorious" without a king, don't you think?" replied the Eyrie, very nonchalantly. "I mean without a ruler, what will you do? Military cannot successfully raise and command a country."
"What have you done with our King?!" Duchess demanded her voice heavy with alarm and regret for not staying at the castle.
"He had too many burdens upon him... and now he is sleeping peacefully."
"You didn't!" Duchess roared.
Without a leader what was Meridell supposed to do? Duchess fell to her knees and fatigue washed over her in waves that wouldn't stop. Her body finally was sitting down and seemingly at rest and at ease. It was as if her body gave up, her morale gone. She heaved herself up with a sudden rush of adrenaline and struck Kass's armor heavily. The Eyrie felt a heavy weight clash with his armor but he began to laugh. It hadn't pierced his armor and he knew that was all she had in her. Duchess groaned as the weight of her armor was too much. She fell back on her knees again and began to quietly cry. The battle seemed hopeless now, lost. She closed her eyes and suddenly she found herself a toddler all over again.
Or at least, looking at herself as a toddler. She watched as she played with some blocks while her grandmother calmly knitted her a scarf. Duchess hardly ever saw her parents but when she did she cherished every second. Actually, come to think about it, she didn't really remember this day very much... just one part about it. Toddler Duchess was sitting on her blanket playing with her blocks when suddenly there was a knock at the door. Her grandmother went to open it, instructing her to stay on her blanket and play with her blocks. Duchess did as she was told. However her play time was suddenly ended when she grandmother gasped loudly and clutched two scarves, both ragged to pieces.
Her grandmother began to shake and whimper but was desperately trying to hold her emotions in. Toddler Duchess peered around the corner and saw a nicely dressed man giving her a letter with the scarves and hugging her tightly. Duchess gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Toddler Duchess didn't know what was going on but now Duchess finally realized it. Her grandmother was receiving the... the letter. Duchess had seen Jeran deliver this letter sometimes and she knew exactly what it read. Her parents weren't poor and out working all night and day, they were fighting in a war that she knew nothing about. She could only guess that memory was triggered by someone of the supernatural – Duchess never had such a vivid memory before. She found herself shaking more and more the tears unable to stop flowing. Opening her eyes she saw that while she'd blacked out her soldiers had stood by to protect her.
...Only five remained.
Duchess felt another rush surge through her and with a lurch she got up, holding her sword tightly in her hand and running up to Lord Kass. Her teeth were somewhat grinding against one another as she lifted up her sword. Kass was shocked to see her back up but he just shrugged it off. As she raised her sword Kass slashed his sword, trying to get her "exposed" stomach only to be greeted with the deafening sound of blade clashing with blade. Kass was dumfounded– he didn't expect her to retaliate so quickly. He growled and tried push her away with his shield but she grabbed the top of it and used all her strength to pull it down so she could deliver the devastating blow. Lord Kass let out a loud shriek as her blade made a direct hit with his face – the only thing unarmored.
By now it had to be sometime around one in the morning and the distant storm had gone full force over Meridell. Rain poured into their armors as they went up the hill, many soldiers wounded and others simply not there. Jeran was leading the pack just like he'd done when they first engaged battle and his morale was high. Meridell had won thanks to Duchess's confrontation with Lord Kass which sent him retreating back to the Citadel. After Duchess had struck Kass and sent him retreating the rest of her team managed to survive – one healer and four soldiers. She was limping badly and leaning on Jeran for support as she walked, her endurance empty. The only thing driving her was getting back home and getting a shower with a good meal. Of course now that Skarl had been a fatality of war, Meridell had no ruler. Who would take over concerned Duchess greatly and took up her thoughts to the point which she didn't notice the cheering crowds of the citizens wishing them a warm welcome.
The masses were gathered in and around Meridell Castle, all of them chanting Jeran's name over and over again as if in some sort of ritual. Jeran smiled and began to wave as he finally got over the hill and saw the citizens. Duchess smiled but not because of the cheering crowd but because the Castle was in sight and she could finally rest and mourn. Jeran increased speed nearly forgetting about Duchess until her healer came up to hold her steady. Jeran was welcomed with cheering, food and clothing offerings and many more luxuries. Duchess had been promoted recently, sure, but she wasn't famous enough to be greeted as such yet. Rain poured into her face and in her hair but she didn't mind. She welcomed it for it was a long, tiring and hot battle. This downpour was like a blessing by the water faeries of Neopia. Finally as they got to the castle Duchess was escorted inside the castle to Sarah, her adopted sister and High Priestess of Meridell. They both scurried off to the top of the castle which is where Sarah's room was.
Downstairs, however, the festivals were just beginning and Jeran was the champion. He smiled and chuckled as the masses shooed him inside to dry climate and delicious food galore. He was escorted and pleaded to sit on the throne but he refused to sit in the place the next ruler would sit.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of Meridell. You've all treated me very well – however, I'm not the one who led us to victory. I led our army into battle but I didn't turn the tides in our favor – one of my soldiers did."
The crowd seemed confused and they all had questions. Most of them were all the same – "Who won for us, then?" and "Who was it, Sir Jeran?" He was about to speak when he noticed Duchess limping (but not as bad) down the staircase. She'd been healed enough to come down and eat before going to bed. She was now in her chainmail that she'd left at the castle and felt much cleaner in them than the ones she'd worn out to battle. Sarah helped her keep her balance as she slowly made her way down the grand white-wooded staircase with golden trimming. As soon as she was visible to the crowd Jeran pointed to her and announced: "This young lady right here is the soldier who led Meridell to victory, introducing, Duchess!"
The crowd just sat there for a minute and Duchess's face turned beet red. She was confused as to why Jeran had suddenly pointed to her and gotten everyone's attention on her. Sarah led her down to where Jeran was standing and that's when Jeran took Duchess's hand and helped her get beside him.
"Commander, what are you doing?"
"Duchess," Jeran chuckled, "You're Meridell's hero! You deserve to be noticed! These people thought I led us to victory but no. It was YOU who led us to victory, and for that I would like to give you my sincerest congratulations. You deserve it."
"W-well, thank you Commander... that means a lot."
"S-sir Jeran? I don't mean to interrupt, but who is to take Skarl's place?"
Jeran closed his eyes and heaved a sigh. He'd put this off long enough.
"Meridell," he began, "King Skarl told me something before this battle that I have not shared with anyone but Lisha, my dearest sister. The King told me that he wanted me to be the next King of Meridell should I outlive him. However, I am nearing forty and while I'm getting old for my job as someone on active duty I still have a few more years of fight left within me. I am needed in our army to train young soldiers and to mentor those select few who show excellence in the art of sword fighting. However, do not worry. I know of someone who would be much better to rule Meridell. They excel in sword fighting but they also excel in intelligence. This person knows every boarder in Meridell, every attack route. They are skilled leaders and I think if this person remained on the battlefield the Meridell citizens would be deprived of an excellent ruler. Citizens of Meridell, I give you," he suddenly pulled Duchess in front of him, "Duchess the Great!"
Duchess gasped, her breath hitching in her throat. She was supposed to be the Queen? Why? Jeran was older than she was, wiser! Why was she suddenly promoted to the highest rank in Meridell? The citizens all seemed to be thinking the same. Jeran saw how they (and Duchess) reacted and glanced at her and back to the crowd.
"Citizens of Meridell, I have chosen Duchess to rule because she is truly more skilled than I and not just in battle. When I was in the first war, Kass landed in Meridell to fight but I did not confront him directly on our ground because I didn't want to put my patrol's lives in danger. To be honest, I was selfish. I thought if I went to him I'd be the only one there in risk of losing my life but at the same time I thought I was skilled enough to make Kass lose his too. However I was wrong. I fell off of the edge and had it not been for that air faerie I wouldn't be here right now. Duchess was not selfish. She knew that her soldiers, just like her, pledged to risk their lives for Meridell and she knew since they'd taken that pledge she had no doubt about what she was doing. She lost nearly her entire patrol but saved Meridell as a whole. I almost made Meridell lose because of my foolishness. I am afraid if I become king that I will let my foolishness take hold again and I will ruin us. But I know that Duchess will always put the greater good of Meridell before anything else and that is why she is the right choice to lead," Jeran finished.
The crowd slowly but surely began to clap at his speech and they began to chant Duchess's name. She felt well praised and proud of her decision earlier that day. This was going to be a scary ride but she was willing to take the task. She waved to her citizens and began to shed happy tears. She was finally to the top and ruling her favorite land.
Even after her parents had fallen, she had won the victory. She was now Queen Duchess of Meridell – and a Meridellian Legacy.