The shadowy figures slunk through the dank tunnels. As the sludge dripped off their daggers and spears, they trudged higher and higher. They reached the hidden gate and cast the spell that would open the enchanted gate.
"Arkeziel!" the Commander shouted.
The lock clicked open and fell away as the door swung open.
He ordered his men to fan out and search the castle.
"Find King Skarl or Lord Kass will have your heads!" Commander P. Krusher barked.
The soldiers marched up the stairs as quietly as they could with their weapons and crept down the dimly lit corridors. A gangly Techo slowed and awkwardly shuffled towards the commander.
"Sir.. what do we do if we um.. Find him?" he blurted.
The Grarrl leaned over the Techo and grinned.
"Why bring him to me of course" he replied sweetly.
The Techo gulped and continued up the stairs.
"I feel sorry for anyone who winds up stuck in Commander Krusher's dungeon" he mumbled to himself.
Meanwhile upstairs a small group of soldiers had managed to find King Skarl's room..
The Gelert soldier peeked around the corner and crept back to where the rest of his squad were hiding. "There are 7 guards total. Two at the end of the hall, two outside his room, two in the rooms next to his and our source claims one additional inside his room. Rupert and Mikey, you take the ones outside his room and then get the two at the end of the hallway. Loretta and Vern you each take one of the neighbouring rooms and I'll take the King's suite."
A short while later..
The Commander strode into the cell and tossed a hunk of bread at the huddled shape in the corner.
The blue Skeith turned towards the food and reached greedily towards it. The Commander's candle flickered on the sallow face of the prisoner.
"My my Skarl.. looking a little thin are we. Best keep your strength up for your Grand re-introduction."
The Grarrl left the cell and returned shortly with two well-armed Bruce guards.
"Chain him and bring him to the balcony."
In King Skarl's chambers, Commander P. Krusher paced back and forth.
"Sir the prisoner is in the hall. We are ready to go" Trevor the manservant announced.
The Commander took a deep breath and stepped powerfully onto the balcony followed by his Kacheek servant. His Uni herd had rounded up the Meridellians by the castle wall.
"Citizens of Meridell. Your attention please" the little Kacheek boomed.
"While this war has lasted longer than either side would like… we are happy to announce it has come to an end!" The Grarrl declared.
A pathetic looking King Skarl was brought onto the balcony in chains. Whispers spread throughout the crowd.
"Your lands are now ours. A weekly food quota must be met or you will be brought to our spacious dungeons. Expect our soldiers to come by every Monday. Enjoy your new lives." The Commander disclosed and waltzed back inside to the roar from outside.
Five years later…Meridell no longer exists. Darigan Citadel has taken over the land and uses the Meridellians to farm the land and provide food for them, working them like slaves.
Commander P. Krusher sits comfortably on his throne.
"Bring me the finest fare from the kitchen, I'm feeling peckish before my meeting" he orders one of the Kougras in the corner.
The castle doors banged open and a chill seeped into the room. A dark purple blur flew into the room and landed at the feet of Commander Krusher with a thud.
"My most gracious welcome Lord Kass." The Commander kneeled.
"Get your soldiers and the new citizens ready for war Commander. We march at the next dawn for Haunted Woods."
"Yes my Lord." Krusher turned.
"Louie. Go tell the soldiers to send out the infantry to the new citizens to gather the non-farming families, and get them fitted with armour and weapons. Now. Sasha. Go warn the armory and the kitchen staff to start packing." he barked.
"Yes Commander Krusher." they said together. Louie and Sasha ran from the main hall.
Lord Kass pushed into the war room and laid out a map.
"Let us plan our attack."
"Move your behinds! Lord Kass will not tolerate such incompetence" yelled the gruff guard as they prodded each 'new' citizen into their armour.
A young blue Chia had a hardened leather vest strapped tightly around his midsection and a pitchfork thrust into his hand. A look of terror spread across his face as he was pushed forward.
"Next" the armorer's assistant shouted.
The next morning at the break of dawn…
The haphazard train of soldiers marched through the roughed plains. The food cart was pulled by the strongest Unis and Kaus and guarded from pilfering by Darigan Kikos.
Halfway through the sweltering day a Lenny flew down to the head of the column.
"Report Commander. The east border of the Haunted Woods is roughly 6 days march with minimal breaks." Lionel stated.
A weakened Acara stumbled in the dust. A guard Draik cracked the Acara with his tail and he got up and kept going. At the end of the day, the train was given small portions of food and a rest until dawn.
"We are making good progress Commander" Trevor the Kacheek squeaked.
"Gather the lieutenants. We must finalize the battle plan."
"Yyy… yes sir."
"The plan is to hide beyond the hills and fall upon them at dawn because if we attack at night, they will have the advantage. No noises or fires so they don't see us coming. Each of the three battalions will have half our soldiers and half the new citizens. The strongest group can attack straight on the east border with the other two groups approaching around the south and north borders. Begin the attack at 0700. If we press them up against the mountain, they have nowhere to run."
"Excellent plan Commander" The Jetsam Lieutenant agreed with a sharp nod.
"May I suggest Horris to lead the northern approach?" The Shoyru Lieutenant added.
"He will do nicely."
As the sun peeked over the hills, the three battalions began their descent into the dark woods. The south column reached the village first and crept through the graveyard as they surveyed the layout of the small group of houses.
"Jaryk take yours to the group of houses to the left. Marin's squad take the right." The Jetsam Lieutenant said quietly before checking the time and advancing her battalion.
A heavily armoured Shoyru laughed to his friends about how easily the 'Woods People' would surrender while the other soldiers hooted and hollered at his jokes.
"You citizens, go into the caravans and bring the Neopians out. We will take care of the rest" The Shoyru said calmly before he charged out from behind the rotted log.
The northern group slinked into the eerie fairground. The rides creaked in the wind. The leader of the battalion ordered his men to a halt. He looked over at the two Mynci's standing towards the edge of the group.
"Search the grounds quickly, but most importantly quietly. We need to make sure there is no one here who can warn the town" he ordered.
They scurried away while the rest of the group waited. Minutes later they returned with the all clear and the group began their approach to the village.
The Elephante Lieutenant, Horris from the northern battalion quickly met with the Shoyru and Jetsam lieutenants in the central village with the 'Woods People'.
The Shoyru Lieutenant ordered the strongest soldiers to tear every remaining person from their home and have them gather in the middle of the town with the rest of the 'Woods People'. Slowly as they last Neopian was ushered into the center small bits of chatter were floating around.
"They've been ruling over what used to be Meridell for 5 years… at this point you just have to accept your fate..." a young Ixi whispered to a nervous looking Halloween Jubjub.
The Ixi was cut off from saying more by the approach of Commander Krusher. He strode towards the ragged group of Neopians with a grin.
"Your lands are now under our rule. A weekly food quota must be met or you will be severely punished. Expect our soldiers to come by every Thursday. In the meantime those that are able-bodied will be set to building new guards quarters, guard towers, and dungeons. Welcome to the Darigan reign."
The next morning, Lord Kass arrived with his Pteri guards.
"Well done Commander. I have your next set of orders for you."
The Commander unrolled the large scroll and looked up at his Lord.
"But my Lord. This is the Lost Desert.."
"World domination doesn't end with a solitary neighbouring land... Phyllis."