The Sorceress and the Prisoner: Part Seven
Master Vex paced up and down the cold dungeon. A drip of water persistently hit his head, but he was used to this as he walked this walk every morning and every night. He had been doing so for the past twenty years; nothing was new anymore. It wasn't that he liked keeping these prisoners here, it was more he enjoyed the isolation from the outside world. Only a few people to check on every now and then, and he had complete power over their conversations. There weren't many prisoners here – Lord Darigan rarely bothered enough anymore to throw any people here and the latest prisoner before Lisha had been over a decade ago. The oldest prisoner was Prisoner Five. There had been five prisoners before him, but he was the only one who had survived the long and hard twenty years of this.
The other prisoners thought he had gone insane with being locked up for so long. Master Vex knew differently; he was the only one who knew differently. Perhaps now was finally the time to tell Lisha, to tell everyone. He wasn't affected by being burdened with this secret, but to finally release it into the world would be a huge weight off his shoulders. Because Prisoner Five was the only one who could help them now.
Lisha reeled off the conditions of the spell to Master Vex. She had to be within a five metre radius of whatever she was mending, and she had to be able to see it. The Mynci knew well enough that the orb was not within five metres of her cell. Lord Darigan probably hid it in his chambers somewhere. His bedroom, even, where no one had ever gone apart from the Lord himself. How could he get it? He rarely came out of the dungeons...Lord Darigan, no, anyone who saw him would know something was wrong.
And another thought was troubling him. Lisha had seemed to have forgotten Lord Darigan's own spell on this dungeon, cast by one of his sorcerers...one of his ex sorcerers. No magic could be performed in this dungeon, ever. Lisha had to get out of here to do the spell. Everything was adding up now...and the odds didn't look great.
“I've memorised the chant,” Lisha told Master Vex now. “Ick nishi erin tu. I don't know how good I am at casting spells without my wand, so it would be best if we could get the orb in my hands if possible.”
Master Vex sighed. “I have no idea where it is. We'll have to –”
Suddenly, without warning, a huge crash sounded and the whole palace shook. What was going on? All of the prisoners yelped, some waking up from their slumber. It was barely dawn! Was this another wave of attack so soon?
“Master Vex!” Lisha shrieked, knocked off her balance and falling to the floor with a bump. The heavy book slipped from her hands and hit the floor beside her, missing her by inches. Two hands shot out and grabbed the book – it was Prisoner Five. He hid it under his cloak, then stepped backwards into the shadows of his cell.
“What...?” The Mynci was confused by the Lupe's actions for a moment, until a new shadow fell across the dungeon in the shape of a large, intimidating Korbat.
Lisha picked herself up from the floor and clapped a hand to her mouth. She steadied her balance as the palace continued to shake. Dust fell from the ceiling and the bars, causing her to cough. Lord Darigan opened her cell door with the key hanging from Master Vex's neck. He took her roughly by the arm and dragged her from her holding place. All the while shouts could be heard even from down here, and the huge roars of catapults firing large stones. Lisha wondered if her brother was up there in the open of the Citadel. Until now she hadn't allowed herself to think of him. Now that she did, she felt the yearn to see him again.
“Lord Darigan, where are you going with Lisha?” Master Vex asked as he stepped out of the way of Lord Darigan marching past him, Lisha in tow. She threw the Mynci a bewildered look as she hurried past.
“That is of no business of yours, Vex.” Lord Darigan replied quietly. “But if my minions have served me well it seems you have grown far too friendly with this prisoner in particular. Conversations, whispers of a spell, no doubt. Why, even a yellow Lupe broke in, did he not? And you did not report this to me. So no, I will not tell you where I am going with Lisha. I, too, have secrets from you.”
At this he left, and when the pair of footsteps could no longer be heard over the chaos above, Master Vex sank to the floor in exasperation. He had no idea how Lord Darigan had known – perhaps one of the prisoners was a spy reporting back when he fell asleep? – but he did, and now their plan was ruined. Now was definitely the time to –
Master Vex almost didn't hear Prisoner Five at first. Then his coarse, croaky mutterings were like music to his ears. Even without his memory he had remembered something vital. Something that would at least bring the plan to fruition, even if they had to somehow get Lisha back to perform the spell.
“The orb is in his floor, the orb is in his floor, the orb is in his floor...”* * *
“CHARGE!” Jeran yelled, as his troops landed on Darigan Citadel soil. The battle was already in full swing and it was hard to make sense of everything for a moment. Darigan Citadel was only a small area of land and Jeran feared for the village not far from the battlefield.
With Sir Borodere now here, the Meridellian soldiers now had faith in their win and fought harder, but the Darigan troops seemed somewhat...relaxed and smug. As if they knew already they were going to win. Jeran wanted to wipe the smirks off their faces.
Everywhere, noise. Jeran wondered, briefly, where King Skarl was. Sat at home in his castle? Did he ever actually participate...or did he rely on his knights, guards and soldiers? All of this...this war, the previous ones...all of it boiled down to him originally stealing that orb from Darigan Citadel. Was he a good king after all?
Hours seemed to fly by and no one was letting up. It was around sunset when suddenly Jeran spotted Lord Darigan stood atop a roof of a building. The Korbat raised a hand, and wondrously, all of the Darigan troops stopped fighting and turned to look at their leader. Some Meridellians tried to carry on fighting, but Jeran called the fighting off. Something was going on now. And then he saw her.
Lisha, being brought onto the roof by no one other than Lord Darigan himself. The three of them were stood there, waiting for silence to fall. Hundreds of hushed voices ran through the area, older folk wondering what in Neopia was going on. Everyone seemed to be thinking that at this very moment. Sir Borodere stepped forward to the front of the crowd, and stared at no one but Lisha, primed ready to attack incase they decided to hurt her. For what seemed like forever the three of them just stood there, and then Lord Darigan spoke to everyone, his tone low and serious.
“Some years ago, though I am not being pedantically precise, our two countries were plunged into war for the first time. Why was this, may some of you younger ones ask? Because King Skarl stole a very powerful orb from me, an orb that provided Darigan Citadel with food and fresh water and prosperity. When this orb was taken, all of this was lost. We were plagued with disease and famine whilst Meridell flourished. The way we look now is not how we used to. People have coined us 'Darigan coloured'. This is an insult to my very name. In fact, the last war made me lose sight of my senses. Lisha here thwarted an enchantment on the King. Then I returned and took my rightful place at the throne of this Citadel. He has been here all along. Over the past decade I have been training my soldiers up to fight again, and this time, to win. To get revenge on what Meridell has done to us. Now is the time! And now, Darigan will succeed.”
“You will never defeat us all!” Jeran shouted, loud and brave. Others stared at him admirably, in awe of such a noble and true knight. “We will fight with everything we have!”
Lord Darigan grinned, baring his sharp, pointed teeth. “Will I not, Sir Borodere? But I have something you don't...sacrifices. One in particular that you will not want to be used...”
“I'd rather die myself than let you harm Lisha.” Jeran said, not breaking his intense eye contact with his sister. She was shaking her head at him, mouthing something he couldn't quite work out. Jeran hesitated.
Jeran's answer only seemed to please Lord Darigan more, but he couldn't figure out why.* * *
No one was in the palace – some sort of speech from Lord Darigan was going on outside. Master Vex didn't care. He just didn't care anymore. He needed to save Lisha before something happened to her, so that she could save Meridell and Darigan from a sure terrible fate. He released Prisoner Five from his cell for the first time in twenty years, but to his surprise the Lupe didn't try to just run away. Perhaps there was some of his old self still in there after all, but he realised there was something important that needed doing. And now the two of them were running to Lord Darigan's chambers, up and up countless stairs.
Prisoner Five was talking to himself under his breath until they reached Lord Darigan's door. Master Vex opened it cautiously, half expecting Lord Darigan himself to jump up in front of them even though he knew for sure the Lord was outside. It almost seemed like a ruckus was starting outside now.
“What part of the floor is it?” Master Vex demanded once they were both in the room. It was a well organised office but rather bare and hardly welcoming.
“In his floor, fool!” Prisoner Five insisted. He opened another door Master Vex hadn't noticed and it revealed Lord Darigan's bedroom. Purple and navy blue in colour, a huge four poster bed stood in the centre against the back wall. A gigantic red and gold chest was sat next to a similar coloured wardrobe. A huge oil painting of Lord Darigan hung on his wall – of how he used to look.
It was strange to see. No one ever talked about how people looked back then. Ever. Before the orb was stolen and everything was peaceful and happy. Before everyone took on these strange, twisted forms of themselves. Master Vex remembered what Darigan Citadel used to be like, and for a second he sympathised with Lord Darigan and Galgarroth. They just wanted the Citadel to go back to how it was. A welcoming country, not a place no one would dare to visit in fear of never returning. On a table, slightly hidden in the shadow of the large wardrobe beside it, was a tiny picture in a small, dusty frame. The painting was old, very old indeed. There was a picture of a young female Korbat, unsmiling, gazing ahead as though in another world altogether. At the bottom was the inscription: Maid Marbella, aged seventeen.
But Master Vex did not notice this tiny painting.
There was another painting on the opposite wall, much smaller and harder to notice, and this one surprised Master Vex. It was a painting of the orb, and Lord Darigan holding it...and the orb's creator.
The orb's creator, who, right now, was smashing his way through the floor with his old wooden staff, a staff that contained more power than anyone would know, but no one knew. One of the most powerful sorcerers to ever live. The one who made the orb how it was. How only a pure and noble heart could fix the orb. The creator couldn't fix it, not now. There was some sort of hold. Master Vex had tried before, many years before Lord Darigan hid the orb properly, to get the old Lupe to fix the orb, but it hadn't worked. And his mutterings of only someone of his descent could fix it, with a pure and noble heart...
Darigan Citadel would never stoop so low as to ask for help from a Meridellian. But Lord Darigan may have done so and failed in vain, as he did not know of the true way to fix it. Only Master Vex did – but Master Vex had left it. The truce had seemed to be working, but now, clearly, that wasn't to be. And that was why making sure Lisha wasn't harmed was the most important thing in the whole of Neopia right now.
Because Lisha was of Prisoner Five's descent, and she had a pure and a noble heart indeed...she just didn't know this. It was why she was such a successful sorceress, and why she'd be able to do this spell even if she doubted herself.
Because Lisha was his daughter.
“Master Vex!” Prisoner Five jabbed the Mynci with his staff. He was grinning with glee and pointing at the floor whilst doing a funny sort of dancing jig. “Look! Look!”
Lying under the floor were the two halves of the mystical orb, wrapped in a silk cloth, golden with beautiful patterns on both parts.
“How do we get this to that lovely young maiden?” Prisoner Five asked. “She was lovely, she kept me company, yes, we have to save her...” His brow furrowed. “We have to save her!”
Master Vex passed one half of the orb to Prisoner Five, praying he wouldn't drop it. He held the other half in both arms – it was surprisingly heavier than he thought it would be. How would they get the two halves of the orb to Lisha? He had no idea...but he had to try. It seemed it was all down to him and his old friend now. “Come on,” he nodded to Prisoner Five now. “We have to hurry!”
To be continued…