The Shade Flame Legacy: Valrigard - Part Eight
Challenge a Flame
No! Death was only an obstacle in life, and I was about
to endure it. I struggled helplessly against my holder... I couldn't believe
it! Skarl was going to kill me! Or, maybe he already had...My throat ached terribly
against Skarl's hold...
Then, something sparked within me. Energy flowed
throughout my muscles, and I could hear Skarl roar in agony. I ran completely
out of air...
Suddenly, I felt a thud hit Skarl. The King's
weight fell heavily on the ground. I looked up, spots in my eyes and saw Jeran
fighting off his own king. The knight took out his sword and delivered a heavy
blow to Skarl's head (by the hilt), and knocked him out. I wobbled shakily to
my feet and fumbled for my sword. Jeran, having rendered Skarl unconscious,
ran to my side and supported me. I leaned heavily, my legs were still partly
paralyzed, and stood by myself. As soon as I did, I fell to the ground.
"You okay?" Jeran asked, worried, "I heard you
shout 'Shade Flame!' and then I heard choking. You okay?" I nodded weakly. Jeran
looked at Skarl's crumbled form on the ground. He sighed.
"I never thought I would end up fighting my
king," he said sadly, "But then again, I never thought that their would be a
magic called Shade Flame." I smiled.
"And I never thought that you'd possess magic,
even though you're Meridell's Champion," I said. I was surprised at how hoarse
my voice seemed. It felt like I had scrubbed it with sandpaper! We heard a loud
snore that told us Skarl was sleeping and back to his old self.
* * * * *
It was daytime in the camp and I was still given
the silent treatment. Every commander shouldered me as I walked past them. The
only pets that didn't shun me were Velle, Sheer, Jeran, and Firescale (surprisingly).
I had grown to like that young Krawk a little. I was surprised that he wasn't
mad, considering that it was my fault his father died.
"Um, Valrigard?" Sheer asked. "What?" I half-moaned.
"Ghyr says that he wants to talk to you."
"Where does he want to meet?" I asked.
"He says he wants to meet you right in front
of the camp, where everybody can see you."
"He wants a fight?" I asked, hoping otherwise.
"Ghyr says that he just wants to test and see
if you're really leader material. If you want, I could place a forcefield around
you or something..."
"That's okay, Sheer," I said, "If Ghyr wants
a fight, then I'll give him one. But I can't let my friends help. He'd think
that I'd forced you, and then he would try to fight you and all my other friends."
Sheer sounded impressed. "You really know war
leaders, don't you?" I shrugged.
"I guess I can say that it comes naturally,"
I muttered nervously. Sheer smiled proudly.
* * * * *
I walked up to the platform where Ghyr stood
waiting for me. The Halloween Lupe was flexing his powerful muscles and sharpening
his knifelike teeth. I grimaced at the thought of them piercing my back.
I felt the hilt of my sword nervously. When
Ghyr saw it, he shook his head.
"No weapons allowed, Valrigard," he said simply.
My mouth fell open. How was I supposed to fight without a weapon? But, backing
down would just make the pets lose more hope in me. And hope was what I needed
most right now. I took out my sword and dropped it to the ground. I could hear
some pets snickering as I walked onto the platform. Taking deep breaths, I faced
Ghyr. The Halloween Lupe's green eyes buried deep into my own. I wanted to look
away, but I couldn't afford to show and signs of weakness now.
With eye-blurring speed, Ghyr shot at me with
his left paw. I barely dodged the attack and ducked under his powerful arms
(I wasn't quite sure what to do, I mean, how easy is it to beat a Halloween
Lupe with your bare paws?) then rammed him in the stomach. Ghyr laughed at me.
He looked at his stomach where I had rammed it and brushed me off like a bug.
I growled and rammed him again, but he caught me by the head. I could hear some
soldiers breaking out in giggles at me.
"Look," I asked, "Are you just fiddling around
with me or what?" Ghyr smiled like I was a child who had dropped his bottle.
"Actually," he said with a chuckle, "I just
wanted to know that you're doing well. Not many pets fight well after they know
that they're going to die." The words echoed in my head.
"Die," I said, trying not to sound surprised,
"What should I expect?" Ghyr's face turned from a smile to determination. He
swiped at me from all directions. I ducked down again and jumped up into his
face. The Lupe growled in annoyance and swiped at his face, but I had already
climbed over his face and was sitting on his shoulders. I reached my arms around
his thick neck and pulled in sharply. Ghyr made a coughing sound but kept trying
to shake me off.
For a minute I considered my Shade Flame, but
that was a weapon. I shrugged it off and asked,
"So, Ghyr, how's the weather back in the Haunted
Woods?" But he wouldn't answer, because he had already collapsed from exhaustion.
When everyone gasped, I shrugged and said,
"He'll live. But, I don't envy the headache
he'll have when he wakes up. Now, does anyone else want to fight?" There was
a long silence, then I heard clapping. I looked across the crowd and saw Velle,
Sheer, and Jeran clapping. After a few moments of hesitation, the whole audience
was applauding! I didn't want to sound ruthless when I had challenged everyone
else, but I kind of needed the pets to trust me and my confidence.
I flew off the platform and into the air.
"I need to talk to Darigan," I said, "and Skarl."
Sheer, Velle, and Jeran exchanged nervous looks. I just hoped that Darigan was
strong enough to keep Skarl away from my throat.
* * * * *
I flew into the clearing where Darigan was sitting,
with Skarl, who was tied firmly to the nearest tree. The King let out a whine
of exasperation. I glared at him icily, but his pitiful expression told me that
he was the real Skarl.
"Why'd you try to kill me?!" I demanded, not
interested in quietly beginning the conversation. Skarl looked down, shamefaced.
"It wasn't my fault!" he whined. "These three
figures came up to me and told me that if I'd kill you, I would get..."
"Power," Darigan finished. "I think you saw
the Three. But why they're trying to get you is beyond my wisdom, Valrigard."
I sighed. I hated it when I didn't know the answer to a mystery.
"Well," I said, "I still don't feel exactly
safe around you, Skarl. No offence, but I think you'd better stay here for the
next battle." Skarl's face drained of its colour.
"You're going to fight that shadow army AGAIN?!"
he demanded. I nodded. "But," he fumed, "You'll all DIE! I will not let you
destroy Neopia with your foolish ideas!" I flew over to Skarl, anger stamped
on my face.
"As far as the armies out there are concerned,"
I hissed, "They're willing to give their lives for Neopia, because this is its
last stand. It may be foolish, but it's right. And, last time I checked, you
weren't exactly a Hagan when it came to smarts, were you?" Skarl bristled.
"Yes," I said, "I'm going to take back Meridell.
And kill Syvor."
"Be careful, Valrigard," Darigan said, "Too
much of a want for death and destruction will make you like Syvor himself."
I nodded, but I didn't like it. Syvor was some evil maniac! I desired his death
more then anything, but I could understand Darigan's point. He himself had been
"We're moving the troops to Meridell," I said,
"And we're going to take it back. If I can kill Syvor, then the army will disappear.
* * * * *
After just a night of being in Meridell, the
shadow army had trashed it. Shadows too could become drunk and stupid. They
had obviously done that, and it showed on the castle. In the dining hall, the
tables had been overturned. The once-beautiful banners that hung from the ceiling
were shredded. Drink stains splattered all over the place, and the drinks' barrels
were toppled over, spilling the extra beer onto the floor. The outer castle
walls were decorated with foul sketches of Skarl and other leaders. And on the
inside, shadows walked about freely. They laughed drunkenly and mulled about
as if Meridell were theirs' without a second thought. Also, black blood was
evident on the walls from the Shadows getting too drunk and hurting one another.
Syvor sat in his new throne room. It was in
just as bad condition as the rest of the castle. His own graffiti littered the
room, along with beer stains and loose feathers. He sat smugly on the thrown
as a pitiful white Meerca was dragged up to him.
"So, Chartay, is our assassin in the camp?"
The Meerca threw the guards off in disdain. He snorted and said, " 'Course,
where else would 'e be?" Syvor grinned evily. He reached inside his robe and
brought out a small bag, filled to the brim with coins. He handed the bag to
"You've done well," he said, "I just hope you
little friend gets the job done, eh?" Chartay nodded vigorously.
"Don' worry," he said, "Zayta will not disappoint
me." Syvor nodded and said, "You'd better hope so, or you can join my shadows
to their pork roast...and you can accompany the pork's place." The white Meerca
nodded, sweating with terror. The blue Eyrie waved his paw and Chartay turned
and ran as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him. Syvor bent over to a guard
and whispered in his ear,
"If that idiotic mouse makes one wrong move,
I want my own assassin to be after him. Send Lufayne after him, and tell him
stay unnoticed." The guard looked at him nervously,
"Um...m'Lord?" Syvor looked at him impatiently,
and snapped, "What?!" The guard looked down at his feet and mumbled,
"M'Lord, Lufayne was killed. We found his body
in the Shadow Castle last night, and he was burnt severely." Syvor screamed
in hate and spat.
"VALRIGARD!! YOU'RE GONNA DIE! I SWEAR!!"
* * * * *
A silver Zafara met her employer at the edge
of the forest. The Meerca explained the target, and she nodded. Chartay handed
her some copper, and she threw it down.
"You can't count on me to spit on that Draik
with this money," she said, "You know what I want." Chartay was about to protest
when the assassin had her dagger at his throat. Behind her back, she had a poison
"Fine," he spat, handing her the pouch filled
with gold. "With this pay, you had better be rid of that Draik, or you're dead,
Zayta." Zayta chuckled. "I wouldn't be so confident if I were you," she said.
"But you can count on that Draik being dead by morning." The Meerca nodded and
bustled back to Meridell.
* * * * *
Dusk was spreading its orange hues on the camp.
The armies were strangely quiet, as if waiting for something. Lord Valrigard
(I HATED that name!) was choosing the most stealthy pets in the camp to invade
the camp by night. So far, it had taken hours for his test to end. Finally,
a Lupe emerged from the tent and nodded. The camp came alive with eagerness.
The pets I had chosen were: Jeran, Darigan,
a green Pteri named Clyo, a shadow Shoyru named Dathlar, and myself. Sheer and
Velle had insisted on coming, but I turned them down by telling them about the
needs of the camp. Sheer had quieted down about it, but Velle was still insistent.
"Just think of it this way," I said slowly,
"You'll watch the camp and I'll go get Syvor. I really need for you to cooperate
this time, OK?" Velle crossed her arms and left in a huff. I turned towards
the selected pets and said, "Let's go." They all nodded quietly and we departed
from our forest sanctuary. I looked back one last time and wished that I had
let Velle come. It really wasn't her stealth; she could be more silent then
darkness when she wished; but it was something else. I just didn't want her
to get hurt, even though I knew she was able to cope with many things that I
A few hours later...
Night had crept upon Meridell. Every pet in
the camp slept soundly, all save one. Velle tossed and turned on her rock, worrying.
Something rustled in the bushes nearby, but she ignored it against her better
"Stupid Val...should've let me come..." she
muttered under her breath, "I'm not a wimp! I'm a Dreamsaga...should be able
to stand up to stupid Draiks who can't take a hint..."
Behind the bushes, Zayta cursed herself for
her stupidity. At least the Draikess didn't seem to notice... Maybe she could
worm something out of her. The silver Zafara crept up on the grumbling Draikess,
dagger and darts ready. She lifted the dagger to Velle's throat, surprising
"Alright, Draikess, tell me where Lord Valrigard
is," she hissed. Velle reached for her dagger behind her back, so Zayta wouldn't
see. If only she could stall her...
"I don't know," she said. Zayta snorted. "Don't
be stupid, Draikess," she snapped. "Where is he?"
"Um..." Velle began slowly, "he might be..."
She cut herself off, rolling out of the point of Zayta's dagger. The silver
Zafara grabbed a dart and hurled it at the striped Draikess, but Velle gracefully
sidestepped out of the way. The two deadly pets locked daggers, and Zayta slid
under Velle's feet. She rolled over and hurled a new dart at Velle. The Draikess
just managed to duck the poison dart before it whizzed overhead. Then, Zayta
did something unexpected.
The silver Zafara dropped her dagger to the
ground and jumped up. She caught a tree branch in her paws and swung...hard.
She kicked Velle squarely in the stomach. Velle doubled over, and the assassin
grabbed up her dagger.
"You've caused me too much trouble, girl," she
said, and raised her dagger.
To be continued...