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Reign of the Shadows - Part Three


by feriku

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When Jeran finished telling all about what The Three were doing, he shivered. "What was that creepy conversation about, anyway? What was the whole 'tool' thing about? I figured you would know."

     Zahi started jumping up and down. "Didn't you hear a word I said earlier? The Three were controlling Kass! The Three pushed you off the Citadel in a sense, not Kass! He was their tool!"

     Jeran blinked. "I don't understand. If they were controlling him-through that charm you said; I was listening-then they wouldn't actually have to be there, right? But they were, because I heard that conversation!"

     "They were always there, in his head," answered Lord Darigan. "Maybe Kass started fighting them so hard that they got worried, and decided to warn him. Maybe he was right. He was winning."

     Zahi nodded vigorously. "Lord Darigan says Kass was a little crazy, and crazy people can do all kinds of extraordinary things, I hear, if their delusion makes them think they can!"

     Jeran stared at them. So The Three were so bad that the only guy that had ever managed to make them do something had been a good-natured raving lunatic, who everyone thought was an evil, maniacal raving lunatic. This just got better and better.

     Nervously, he touched his sword hilt.

      Jeran, it's hopeless. The thought came randomly, and it wasn't his. You can't win. We'll always be there, waiting. You're ours.

     He must've jumped about five feet in the air, but he wasn't sure. Black spots danced in front of his eyes, and he felt dizzy. He thought someone grabbed him to try and hold him up, but he felt like he was floating in space. The last time he had felt like this, he had been on the receiving end of an ill-natured spell. The Three were talking to him. That wasn't a good thing.

     We always admired you. You could be great, you know. Greater than Kass EVER was.

     "Don't want to be great…" he mumbled, vaguely aware that while The Three talked to him, the Faerie was casting a spell on him. He dimly heard someone yelling his name, and someone else yelling something about "that crazy sword."

      We always wanted to make you ours. It was such a pity when we had to kill you. We thought you were lost to us forever. Think of our delight when you were here, waiting for us, proving the odd rumors about the "knight that conquered death" true. We must thank Psellia when we see her!

     That name triggered memories in the dazed, bewildered Lupe's mind. Psellia. Lisha. Kass. The Three. He knew he had to do something fast, but his mind was spinning in circles. Then he felt someone grab his paw and yank it off of his sword, and his head cleared.

     He blinked. Darigan and Zahi were looking at him like they were afraid he might blow up. Zahi let go of his paw.

     "Are you okay?" asked Darigan, walking over.

     "No," he replied, trying to figure out how he could dispose of his sword without touching it. "Well, I am now. But now I know they're after me."

     Zahi started running around in circles. "It's the sword, isn't it?!? I made you let go of it, and you started acting normal again! They messed with it, and now it's evil!"

     "It's the orb and the charm all over again," said the Korbat softly.

     "EVIL!!!"

     Jeran groaned. "It doesn't bother me if I don't touch it. If I do touch it…well, I just won't touch it. So calm down, Zahi!"

     The Eyrie said, "You're right! I have to stop worrying! I'm usually optimistic. Just keep smiling. Hey, look at the bright side: you'll never really be alone. And if you see someone you hate, you can always trick them into taking it, then run away shouting, 'I'm free! I'm free!' That's a bit mean-spirited though. If you ever die in battle, the guy that killed you will probably take your stuff, and then they'll be doomed, without any malevolence on your part! Although, that one involves your death, so it's not much better."

     "The Three don't give up easily," warned Lord Darigan. "There's no telling what they might do if you get rid of the sword."

     "They'd better not hurt my sister," growled Jeran. He gasped, glancing out a nearby window. "It's getting late; I have to get back before they do something drastic!" As he raced out the door, he yelled, "Bye! Thanks for your help!"

     He saw images of himself charging into Meridell Castle and yelling at The Three, only to discover that Lisha was their prisoner. He could imagine going in a discovering that everyone was under their control. In the fading light, he could see plants that were dying. Things certainly were bad. However, he didn't get to the castle before literally running into trouble.

     Illusen looked a lot madder than she should have. He had only run into her. The way she was glaring at him, you would've thought he had intentionally dive-bombed her with a fighter jet or something like that.

     "I'm sorry," he said.

     She exploded. Anyone who goes on at length about how good and kind Illusen is has never seen her angry. "You should be!"

     "Did I hurt you?" he asked, because she was making such a big deal about it.

     "I'm not talking about you hitting me!" she screamed. Jeran was wondering what heinous crime The Three had claimed he had committed, when she snapped, "Don't play dumb, Jeran! You know what you did! You went up to the Darigan Citadel!"

     He had forgotten that she would almost certainly berate him about that. Illusen held grudges, apparently. "You know, for the self-appointed Upholder of Peace and the Law, you sure like making up your own rules."

     She scowled, and informed him, "You now have two demerits. One, for going up to the Citadel, and another for a false accusation against a public official!"

     "You know, we made peace with the Dariganians. But I suppose the 'Upholder of Peace' had more important things to think about than peace treaties."

     "That's three: mocking a public official. One day in the dungeons!"

     "The Three put you up to this, didn't they?" asked Jeran.

     "Four and five-falsely accusing rulers and not using a term of respect, such as 'their royal majesties.'"

     "Just explain to me how it is fair that we can't be friends with people we're at peace with!" He hadn't intended to start an argument with her over this. But he felt like he had to defend Zahi and Darigan. There was no reason they couldn't be his friends.

     Illusen replied calmly, "Our government needed some reconstructing, and now we have several new positions. The Keeper of Treaties can't find our treaty with Darigan, so until it is found, it is worthless."

     Jeran moaned, "I wish I could see this stupid treaty person. I'd…I'd…"

     "Your sixth demerit is insulting a public official. Seven, not using the proper name, 'Keeper of Treaties.' Eight is for implying a threat. Nine, ten, and eleven are for doing them to her face."

     "You're the Keeper of Treaties?"

     "And a whole lot of other things."

     "What have The Three done to Meridell? All these rules…Oh, when is King Skarl coming back? Please Illusen," he begged, "let me by. I just have to make sure Lisha's okay! The Three are evil; don't listen to their mumbo jumbo! Please Illusen, be on my side, not theirs!"

     * * *

     Ten thousand demerits later, Jeran found himself sitting in a dungeon. It was official; one grumpy old king was a whole lot better than three evil regents.

      Was I the only one that saw their delight as they ordered the guards to take me away?

     He didn't get long to contemplate that. The door opened, and a Draik guard came in. The guard said, "I'm sorry, Sir Jer-I mean…uh…Jeran. You're not a knight anymore." He handed Jeran a piece of bread and a cup of water. "I'd like to say, 'When the king gets back, he'll make everything right,' but I don't know. They're searching the records, looking for a reason to have a war with someone. We might find ourselves unable to climb out of the hole they're digging." He lowered his voice. "I don't trust them, and I don't like them. Some say they controlled and then destroyed Kass. I like living, so I won't go against them, but you should know that you're not alone." He left.

     Jeran miserably tried to find a way to escape. There were no secret passages, no cracks in the walls. He was trapped. He sat down and wondered whom they'd be going to war against.

     He gritted his teeth and stood up again. He'd get out and stop The Three if it was the last thing he did!

      The next time they bring me food, he decided, I'll knock out the guard and escape.

      The door creaked open almost instantly, but the Draik didn't even come in. He just said-trying to sound fierce, but with regret in every syllable-to whoever was with him, "Stop your crying; your friend's fine, and at least you're being put with another prisoner!"

     The door clanged shut behind the Usul that was shoved inside. Contrary to what the guard had grumbled about, the Usul was not crying. She gave no indication at all that she was aware that she was standing in a dungeon. The fur around her neck was greenish, but she didn't have the bows typical of Usuls. She had red hair, and was wearing a pink skirt and a purple shirt.

     "Hello?" asked Jeran after a minute.

     She jumped and stared at him. "What did I do?" she asked. "What did you do? Why are we prisoners?"

     "The kingdom's being ruled by three evil, demented Neopians. That's why we're here," he answered.

     She said slowly, "They didn't put my friend with me. What are they going to do to her?"

     "They probably just put her in another cell," reassured Jeran, although he wasn't totally sure. "When we escape-" He emphasis on when. "-we'll take her too. By the way, I'm Jeran."

     She smiled. "You're Meridell's champion, then, right? You'll get us out. I'm Sally."

     Zahi had been talking about a Meridellian Usul called Sally just that afternoon. He had described her well enough that he could see she was the same one. And her friend… "Sally?" he asked. "Was your friend's name Kira?"

     "Yeah. How did you know?"

     Jeran didn't answer right away. If Lisha disappeared, he would try to save her. Imagining Zahi leading a rescue party made him wince. "I'm friends with her brother Zahi."

     Sally was surprised. "Wow! I mean…uh, not too many Meridellians have been making friends with Dariganians lately."

     "Or ever," he muttered, "if The Three get their way."

     As if they heard their name, The Three appeared. They just popped in, magically.

     "Well, well, well," began the Faerie, "I'm sure we broke up a delightful chat…"

     "…But we DON'T care…" added the Gelert.

     "…Because we want to show you two something," finished the Skeith.

     They positioned themselves, and cast beams of magic at each other, until Jeran and Sally were in the center of a weird, glowing triangle. It started spinning.

     With a flash of light, they spun towards the ceiling, and then they were no longer in a cell, but in the throne room. The triangle still trapped them, and it glided across the room as The Three walked, dragging them along.

     Jeran realized his paw was straying to his sword, and he clenched it into a fist instead. Feeling ill at ease in your own home was one thing; feeling it with nothing better than a cursed sword was much worse.

     He reached out, to see if he could leave the triangle, but the light flared and the glowing beam went up to wear his paw was. The Three paid no attention as he reached higher up, only to see the magical barrier jump a little higher, although he thought he heard the Gelert sniggering.

     "Do you like it? It was my idea?" Illusen had been staring out a window, now she turned and smiled.

     He didn't-couldn't-smile back. In public, the Faerie had been all smiles on the outside-Jeran had once seen her give a thief one of her sweetest smiles and proceed to tell him she was going to hand him over to the Chia Police-although occasionally irritable and sarcastic, especially during meetings. During meetings, she tended to argue about the stupidest little things, if only to avoid admitting that she was wrong. She often seemed so nice that it was annoying. If you knew her better, she proved to have faults just like anyone else. People sometimes acted like she and Jhudora were opposite ends of a spectrum of kindness, but if Illusen had spent the whole day giving out cookies and forgiving Neopets that had "accidentally" trampled her garden, and somebody (often Jeran) angered her by mistake, she could give Jhudora a run for her money.

     But never-never! -had she looked so evil as she did then. Her smile wasn't friendly; nor was it even mocking. It was cold, and her eyes shone with a strange light. He almost started talking to her, but he remembered that the last time he had tried to talk to her about peace and justice, he had landed himself in the dungeon.

     The Three's magic propelled him to the front of the triangle, while Sally watched with frightened eyes. They moved, and moved him, until he was in front of the window.

     They spoke. He could only see the Faerie, but he heard the other two's voices, as they gestured to the window and cried, "Meridell is OURS!!! Behold our power!"

     Jeran looked out, and felt almost all of the hope drain out of him

To be continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» Reign of the Shadows: Part One
» Reign of the Shadows: Part Two
» Reign of the Shadows: Part Four
» Reign of the Shadows: Part Five
» Reign of the Shadows: Part Six
» Reign of the Shadows: Part Seven



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