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Where It All Began


by goldandmica

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High in a turret of Meridell Castle, a young yellow Aisha moaned in her bed. She writhed around, grabbing at her blankets as if protecting them from unseen demons. The straw mattress crunched under her ever-shifting weight, and the blankets slipped noiselessly to the floor...

"JERAN!" The Aisha bolted up in bed, her eyes wild.

"Just a dream...just a dream, Lisha." She assured herself, leaning over and picking up the blankets. Pulling them to her chin as she laid down on the bed, she reassured herself once more, "Only a dream..."

***

It was a perfect day. The grass beneath the Aisha's bare feet was green and cool, swaying and tickling her ankles in the soft Autumn breezes that now swept over Meridell.

Lisha fit the arrow into the bow, "Hey, Morris, bet you I hit the bullseye."

"Did I hear someone say 'bet?'" the Quiggle grinned, turning to face Lisha, "What's for the loser?"

"How about the loser has to kiss the Turmaculus?" Lisha returned his silly grin, "Jeran isn't here to scold us, it's just you and me."

"It's a bet, Lisha."

Lisha drew back the arrow and aimed for the bullseye. She knew that Morris would try some silly trick to get her to miss, and she grinned inwardly to see what he would do.

"So, Lisha, what was your nightmare about last night?"

Lisha let go of the string and didn't notice the arrow widly arcing over the target, "Not funny, Morris."

"No, really, Lisha. What happened? I--" Lisha cut him off, her eyes blazing.

"I don't want to talk about it, Morris," she spat, hissing each word through gritted teeth. "Look, I'm heading back to my room," she muttered inaudible words to herself as she set down the bow and ran back up to her room, tears streaming down her face and making little round spots on the marble floor.

***

As soon as Lisha entered her room, she heard a repetitive tapping. Glancing around to see where it came from, she noticed that pebbles were hitting her window. Grabbing her Wand of Ultranova from the top of a bookshelf, she opened the plain glass window and leaned out it, holding it to the Quiggle throwing rocks. "I'm warning you, Morris. Don't make me use this."

Morris stopped throwing pebbles. Instead he began shouting over the fall winds. Lisha made out a few words, "Me...Boris...leaving...trip...Neopia Central...talk." The rest were turned into the sound of dry, rustling leaves, blown about by an October gale. Lisha shouted as loud as she could, "Go...away, don't...make...me...use...this!"

Morris didn't let up. Lisha sent a glowing stream of coloured light to Morris, not daring to look.

Morris turned to run, but the ground was uneven and he tripped before he could take two steps. He turned, frozen with panic, to see the light blasting towards him. His mind was racing and he had time to think. 'Wow... this is amazing. I'm going to sit here frozen until the light hits me. Then it will hurt." It seemed like the trees and rocks themselves sighed when the light missed its mark slightly, fry-cooking an innocent bystander: A decorative Sword Bush. Morris got up and ran, not bothering to look back.

A knock on the door startled Lisha. She slid under her covers, Wand of Ultranova in paw, and closed her eyes as though in sleep. The door creaked open, and a soft voice from behind it softly murmured, "Lisha?"

Soft padded feet swept across the floor, followed by the swish, swish, rus-rus-rustle of a cloak, "Hello, Lisha, it's Kayla. Lisha? Oh, don't tell me you're trying that silly old sleeping trick!" The Aisha felt her blankets being swept off her and heard them softly fold on the cool white floor, "I could always turn you into a Slorg. Then you might wake up..."

Lisha sat straight up in bed. Kayla wasn't joking. She had seen her use the potion on thick-headed knights. Watching big, haughty Kougras turned into Faerie Slorgs always set the two into a gale of giggles, "And the best part is," Kayla always assured her, "Is that they don't remember a thing when they wake up!" Lisha always asked the same question, even though she knew the answer, "How do you know?" "I tested it on Jeran. No, seriously! I did! Ask Morris if you don't believe me. He was there!"

Kayla made a face at the Wand of Ultranova, then picked it up, stalked to the other side of the room, dropped it back on the shelf, and sat back down, her cape billowing out the same way it just had.

Lisha sighed, "So what do you want?"

Kayla sat down on the edge of Lisha's bed, "Morris told me what happened..."

"How did I know?" mumbled Lisha, exhaling loudly.

"Lisha...what happened? We care about you, Lee. You've been different since...since...since..."

"Since we thought Jeran was dead. You can say it, Kay. It's fine with me. I'm not a coward." Her voice was dry with scorn.

"OK...whatever you say. Wait a minute! Did you just call me 'Kay?' You know I hate it when people call me that!"

"Stop avoiding the subject. And don't call me 'Lee.'" Her voice was emotionless.

"That's the thing, Lisha! You have no patience for anything anymore! You see a beautiful painting, you murmur, 'It's OK,' then walk off! Where's my friend who could look through all the mistakes in a poem and see the gorgeous yarn the words weave! Where's the brave girl I know who would protect her best friends from bullies in a heartbeat? Where's the Aisha who...who...who," Kayla broke off and turned away, not looking at Lisha, "The Aisha...who would tell me anything?" Kayla turned to the Aisha, her eyes glistening with tears. Lisha was startled, she had never seen Kayla cry. Not when she was humiliated in front of the class, not when she broke her arm in Gym...never.

"Kayla...that Aisha...she got a bite of reality. She was a silly schoolgirl who had only fought bravely amongst knights in Roleplaying, triumphed over evil only in Neoquest. But that was never real, Kayla. Now I've seen all these things I only saw in books. I've seen the battlefield littered with swords of fallen commanders. I've seen brave knights be knocked over the edge of a tower without mercy."

"And I made the potion that deteriorated their shields, the potion the separated the sword from the gauntlet. All those peaceful farmers out there," She swept her hand past the window, "They fought with whatever they had. Some had a sword or a bow, some had a pitchfork, and some had nothing but the clothes on their backs. There isn't a single woman out there who hasn't lost a father or a son, an uncle or a brother, a nephew or a husband. You didn't lose anyone close, Lisha. You don't have a monopoly on pain."

"Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Lisha cried, her eyes streaming with angry tears. "Go! Get out, get out, get out!"

"Very well, Lisha. Just think about what I said..." Kayla murmured. Swish, swish, rus-rus-rustle and she was gone. Maybe it was just the breeze blowing the banners that adorned the Castle, but the Aisha thought she heard a sigh from outside her room.

***

Lisha didn't even pretend to be asleep when someone else came into her room. It was Jeran. She knew as soon as he sat down next to her. He put his arm around her shoulder and sighed comically. Lisha shifted away from him, she didn't want to talk.

"Lisha, c'mon, tell me what's bothering you."

"Mmrrmph."

"No, really."

"Gnrrgh."

"Lisha," Jeran forced a laugh, "Stop pretending to be the ornery little sister."

"Grnnff."

"Is this all I'm going to get out of you?"

"Merf."

"Liiiii-shaaaaa!"

"Gmmmfa."

"OK, OK!" Jeran through his hands in the air out of exasperation, "I get the picture! What did I do wrong? Tell me already so I can apologize already!"

"Gnffknff."

"That's it! I surrender!"

"Pmmfff."

Jeran stomped out of the room and down the stairs, muttering words that Kass himself would be shocked at, followed by the loud, distinct thunk, thunk, thunk of a Lupe head cracking again and again on a marble wall.

***

The same soft, padded feet. The same swish, swish, rus-rus-rustle of a cloak, and Kayla was next to the Aisha. Lisha hadn't moved from her perch on the bed. She felt soft, warm arms wrapping around her. Tears on her cheeks, not just hers. Laughter in her ear. Melodic giggles. Soft, musical words of another tongue. A lullaby from her childhood. Sweet, calm sleep finally accepting her, "I don't understand, Kayla. It's been months since Kass...fell. Disappeared. Vanished. Poofed off. It feels like eternities. Why am I still having these nightmares? It's been...too...long. Too...long..."

"Hush, Lisha. It's all going to be OK. Just go to sleep, Lisha. Go to sleep."

When the Aisha awoke the first thing she saw was a package, wrapped in brown paper and brown string. Lisha tugged the ends of the string, and watched the clumsy bow entwine itself. She glanced at the box. It was simple white cardboard, worn soft at the edges. She went to open it, but large golden letters on the top caught her eyes. She traced them in wonder with her paw: NeoQuest.

Memories flooded back to her. Memories of bullies and museums. Memories of friends and of an old back room. Memories of ruins. Memories of a brave Aisha with a lunchbox.

As she brushed tears from her eyes and set the box safety under her bed she began to giggle. Not just little private chuckles, but throw-back-your-head all-out laughter. The marble walls echoed her, sounding like a bubbling creek. Someone else came into the room. Jeran, it was. His laughter, like a waterfall, steady and roaring. Another swish, swish, rus-rus-rustle and soft, melodic laughing like pebbles being tossed into a lake was added to the symphony.

Echos of laughter drowned out all other sounds, and Lisha was surprised when three new notes strummed amongst the others. One of them was strange, it rose and fell like water running over a rock. It was Boris's. She felt a webbed paw brush her shoulder and laughter nest to her. Morris's laughter, like rain, rising and falling all over the scale. The third was like a background sound, a bass that smoothed the rhythm of cellos, violins, and violas. Between the bone crushing hugs everyone was giving for no reason she saw King Skarl leaning on the threshold, grinning and mopping his eyes. Lisha would have gawked for longer, but there was another round of spontaneous hugs and she was buried under laughing bodies.

As their laughter slowed to chuckles and they all lay exhausted on the bed Morris sat up suddenly, look around at every one, asked, "So, what were we laughing about anyway?" As if on cue everyone began to laugh again, the walls mimicking their giggles.

The Aisha didn't know how it started, but soon everyone was engaged in a lively tickle fight, and between the laughter a voice would ring out, "Prepare to die, Von Roo!" "Never!" "Scale the castle walls!" "Rescue the princess!" "Take that!" "Eat potion, you fiend!"

Lisha held back for a while, then shrugged and tackled Jeran from behind, covering his eyes with her paws, "Jeran, the well-known knight, caught off guard? My, my, my..." She clicked her tongue and shouted, "Run, Morris! I shall vanquish the ugly Lupe!"

"Hey, who are you calling 'ugly?'"

"And to think he is famous for his intelligence..."

"Lisha, I'm warning you...!"

"Bring it on!"

Jeran flung himself around so fast Lisha was caught off guard and slipped off her brother's face. As Jeran began to tickle the Aisha she cried out, "Help me, Morris!"

"Scale the castle walls, we must rescue the princess!" Morris cried, whacking Jeran's head with a pillow.

"Hey! Oooh, Morris I'm going to get you for that!" Jeran replied, blocking the pillow-attack with another pillow. "Besides, the day Lisha needs you to scale the castle walls is the day I'll drink one of Kayla's potions and turn into a Slorg!"

Jeran and King Skarl couldn't think of why Lisha threw back her head and laughed.

"Aye," Morris said to Jeran as he fenced him with a pillow, "she is a spunky maiden. I'd probably not be done unlocking her door when she'd rush out, slaying the dragon and saving the village."

"You've got that right, Morris," Jeran chortled, lunging at Morris with the pillow.

Soon they were all leaning on the wall, panting and grinning. Then they all began to hug each other, even King Skarl. Soon Lisha was smooshed in the middle of a gigantic group hug. She sighed looked around the room, taking it all in. She was part of a loving circle of friends and family that would not be broken, and that would never change. Closing her eyes, she let the tears come without fight for the first time in months, and as her face was bathed in salty water, the remains of her nightmares washed away and dripped on the stone floor, making tiny round circles...

But there is still more to the tale...

Everyone in the castle was asleep. Even the knights on duty slowly nodded off in their guard chairs. Only one small, yellow Aisha was still awake, and only a single candle burned on her nightstand. Fingering the worn old game box, the Aisha whispered to herself, "This is where it all began..."

Sliding the box under her bed and blowing out the light, the Aisha whispered, "Where it all began..."

Where it all began...

The End

Author's note: Feedback is appreciated! I'd like to know how you people feel about my first story on this account. My other account's story, One Lenny, Big Dreams, can be found in issue 102 of the Neopian Times, under the username torigal350. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!

 
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