Reign of the Shadows: Part Six
At first, Jeran couldn't figure out why he was surrounded
by darkness. Then The Three appeared, looking rather misty, like the first time.
"Oh no," he groaned. "Not again."
The Faerie smiled. "We underestimated you, Jeran.
We thought you would find a way to escape from the dungeon, although we hadn't
counted on Valrigard. But we never expected you to jump off of the castle!"
"You should thank us," said the Gelert. "We saved
The Skeith asked, "Or are you going to yell 'Free
or dead!' like so many hero-types do?"
"Not that it would help," muttered the Gelert.
"I think Kass yelled that," commented the Faerie.
Jeran sighed. "This doesn't seem all that important.
Why couldn't you laugh at me and do all this when I'm awake?"
"Because we are stronger here," the Gelert answered.
"Really? You look rather transparent and indistinct
"That's because only part of us is here," explained
the Faerie. "With part of our spirits here, no one in the real world can kill
"And," added the Skeith, "here, in this place-our
nightmare world-magic is much more powerful."
"Plus, the darkness adds a rather frightening
effect," said the Gelert.
"You three disgust me," growled Jeran. "You don't
just use Neopets the way you do because you want to conquer and rule, do you?
No. That's one reason, but just one. You like scaring people. If you simply
manipulated Neopets, it wouldn't be fun for you. You like seeing others' fear."
There were slight smiles on their faces, adding
to the annoying way that they always seemed like they weren't making any effort
to trap him; they were just talking to him, explaining things, like they had
all the time in the world.
"You could probably have an army of people like
Morguss-demented weirdoes that like causing mayhem and chaos-and Illusen-grudge-holding
airheads that think they always know the truth and want revenge-but you don't,"
he continued. "You need to terrify someone, or drive them mad. And it eventually
comes to madness. Kass wasn't sane by the time you were done with him, was he?
The Court Dancer's sitting in a dungeon, talking to herself; I bet you had a
role in that. You go beyond evil."
Chuckling, the Gelert actually grinned at the
other two. "I told you our Jeran was perceptive. The first day he met us, I
could tell he knew there was something wrong with us. Talk of power didn't do
anything but make him warier. And you know, not many Neopians can see that Illusen's
an airhead. And he's right. There are weirdoes and airheads aplenty, but their
worth is overshadowed by the pure joy of scaring people witless!"
The Faerie giggled uncontrollably, and said in
a perfectly conversational tone, "Outright horror is fine, but I like it when
we slowly break them down. Whispers of their name, doors opening and closing
by themselves, little inexplicable noises in the dark…until fear and paranoia
take them over. Now that's fun!"
The Skeith grunted, "I enjoy haunting their family
and friends. When someone they love starts going insane, they just become more
willing to submit."
With this morbid chat in full swing, they seemed
to get tired of Jeran, because then he woke up.
* * *
He was lying on the stone floor of a hallway
in the castle. Valrigard was next to him, unconscious. Lisha, Sally, and Kira
were lying in a pile nearby. Everyone looked fine, except for the Draik's shoulder.
Kira disentangled herself and rubbed her head.
She looked around and sighed. "I was hoping this was all just a really odd nightmare."
She looked out through the hole in the wall.
Jeran joined her.
They saw the Darigan Army flying towards the
castle, most not knowing that they would soon be fighting zombies. Not undead
zombies, but creatures that once had been normal, but now were just fighting
machines for The Three.
Unnoticed by the Lupe, farther away, two solitary
figures also made their way towards the castle, towards their hole.
Jeran sighed. If The Three could control so many,
why was he still free?
He hadn't realized he had asked that out loud,
until Valrigard answered from behind them, "They're not doing it the same way.
If my guess is correct, you're talking about most of the Meridell population,
the zombies. I'd say that for them, The Three just used a little of their power."
There was another popping noise, as he fixed his arm.
Jeran turned around and saw that Lisha and Sally
were awake now, too.
"He's probably right," said Lisha. "If…The Three
are behind this-" She still seemed to have trouble understanding The Three.
"-then just a couple flows of their magic would to the trick: one to give them
certain commands and the other to shut down the rest of their mind. They wouldn't
be able to do it to anyone who was expecting it, those who could construct mental
barriers, or mentally strong individuals. Then they could do one of two things.
One, one of them would have to constantly channel the magic out, or two, they'd
have had to keep some normal, and imprison them in a magical box. The magic,
whenever it would grow weak, would start to drain the strength of the captives.
That's probably the method they chose."
They were all gaping at her, and she flushed.
"I read a lot," she mumbled.
Then they all were quiet, thinking about her
information. Valrigard broke the silence by grinding his teeth.
He grumbled, "I've been trying to escape for
the longest time. Now I'm standing next to the way out, and I decide to be a
hero and stick around! Oh boy, what's the world coming to?"
"Come on," urged Jeran, "let's make a plan. The
Three will be getting tired of discussing fear in their dream world, where I
Kira was still staring outside. "I can't tell
if that's Zah-" She jerked to stare at him. "They've talked to you in dreams?"
"Yeah. What's wrong?"
"I've heard that Kass had nightmares, too. Terrible
ones that he never explained. And I'm willing to bet that The Three were talking
to him. Be very careful."
"We've got to hurry," began Valrigard, sounding
annoyed, then stopped as maniacal laughter filled the room. He groaned. "Either
The Three are back or Coltzan's here, and I'm not betting on the dead king."
The Gelert walked out of thin air.
"One-third, I was close," muttered the Draik
The Gelert said, "Bravo, Lisha, Kira," nodding
to each in turn. "We never thought anyone would know our minor controlling technique
without being told. And we compliment your bravery, little Eyrie. Few tried
to find out Kass's secrets after his demise." He laughed. "When someone is simply
turned to ash, it starts to scare you! Come on now, all of you, we have something
to show you."
Two Grarrl zombies came up behind them, and he
started to walk away. Valrigard started to lift his sword, then decided better
of it and followed, muttering to himself. Kira took one last look outside, and
then walked along too. Lisha and Sally went together, the Aisha reassuring the
other that they weren't going to die any time soon.
Jeran walked mechanically after them, and the
Grarrls took up the rear. His mind was racing. No one had ever told him how
Kass died. The Meridellians' responses when he asked were basically, "Yep, he
died after you had fallen." Zahi had related a long conversation between The
Three and Kass, and said, "Then they killed him. You see, they weren't lying
when they said they'd take everything from him. And then…"
They turned him to ash. They had incinerated
him. There was no doubt about it; they liked to cause fear.
Finally, they stopped at the throne room. Off
to the side, the air was slightly gray, in the form of a magic box, like Lisha
had mentioned. Inside were Morris and Borris, looking as though they had been
taken by surprise. Behind them was Kayla, her paw raised like she had thrown
The Faerie, who had been staring at it, now turned
around. She had a burn mark on the side of her face. "Never," she said dryly,
"attack someone with a vial of acid in his or her hand."
The Skeith came in through a door, crying, "The
treasury's full of expensive things for us to take!"
"Oh, would you shut up?" growled the Gelert.
"We've got another country to conquer. With everyone fighting our zombies, I
bet there are relatively few warriors over on the Darigan Citadel."
"You can't take over the Citadel again!" yelped
"Who's going to stop us?" asked the Faerie.
"Me!" yelled Kira and her best friend Sally together.
Lisha stopped staring at Morris, Borris, and
Kayla, and joined them. "Me too!"
The Faerie laughed, and circled around them,
weaving a web of magic.
Lisha pulled out her imitation Rod of Ultranova,
and counteracted the dark magic, causing the Faerie to stop laughing.
"How can I help?" asked Sally, looking around
Kira, whipping out her Zapatron 2000, asked,
"Sally, would you act as my eyes? Let me tell you, when you're blind in one
eye and farsighted in the other, you cannot hit moving targets very well."
"Okay!" agreed the Usul. "You aim, and I'll yell
'Now!' when you should shoot!"
The Skeith sighed, "I suppose fighting comes
before raiding the treasury." He launched himself at Valrigard.
The Draik started to fly, but didn't get his
tail clear in time. "Urgh," he moaned when the Skeith landed on him. "Why don't
you pick on someone your own size?" He readied his sword. "I'd take you to the
Turmaculus personally if you'd like."
Jeran shook his head. Valrigard always had something
nice to say.
The Gelert walked towards him. "It's just you
and I now, Jeran. Care to concede? We know who will win."
Jeran took a deep breath. "Never!" He grabbed
his sword and pulled it out.
Immediately, the voices started. This time, he
heard little mutters from all of the zombies. He shoved them down to a barely
audible buzz, a trick he had learned during meaningless conversations with Illusen.
Their battle began. The cloak should have slowed
his opponent, but it didn't. It flowed smoothly with him, like a part of him.
Jeran was good with his sword, but the Gelert
was just as good. The knight had fought with injuries before, so the burning
of his paw that started up again didn't faze him. Together in a lethal dance
of blades, the champion of Meridell and the dark swordsman moved around the
throne room, seeing nothing of the other battles, only each other and the clashing
Then the mental battle began. What would happen,
asked the Gelert, in his head, through the sword, if I started giving you
memories that aren't yours?
He raced down the dark halls of the empty
house. "Catch me if you can!" He caught a glimpse of the moon, Kreludor, shining
brightly in the sky, and thought to himself that this was a perfect night for
A Skeith burst out of nowhere. "Zzzzap! I am
Dr. Sloth, and you are my mutant slave, Mister Master Hubrid!"
He fell down laughing. "You always have to say
something stupid when we play villains."
A Faerie came around the corner. "Muahaha! Neither
of you will rule Neopia, I, Jhudora, will!"
Jeran was starting to have trouble holding the
sword. That had been a memory of the Gelert's! The voices had been faint, blurred
by memory, but they had been close enough to The Three's to belong to their
"Rotten kids!" growled a voice suddenly.
"Oh no! It's mean old Mr. Farun! If he catches
us here, we're dead!" gasped the Faerie.
They sped down the halls. Mr. Farun was an old,
huge, grouchy Grarrl. He always gave people three chances before resorting to
violence. A bit ago, they had kidnapped his Weewoo and sold it for Neopoints.
That had been the Skeith's idea, of course. Money was always on his mind. Once,
they had tricked Mr. Farun into walking into a swamp. That had been his personal
way of getting back at him for all the times he had been yelled at for being
nasty to "elderly people." Now they had broken into his house to play, while
he was supposedly on vacation. Their three chances were up.
Jeran tried to stop thinking about that memory.
They had been terrible even as kids! It was becoming more difficult to even
block attacks, but he struggled to defend himself, and the two glowing blades
hit, magical sparks flying.
They burst into a room. It was, unfortunately, a library room, and it didn't
have another exit. The Skeith slammed himself against the door, trying to hold
The Faerie asked, "Do you suppose there's a book
here that would make us stronger?" She picked one up. It was rather unsurprising
that she would think to look. She was always looking for ways to get ahead,
or to get more powerful. "Hey guys, we're best friends, right?"
Of course they were. No one else liked them;
they only had each other. The only others that had ever said they liked them
were those they had tricked into believing they were their friends, and even
that lasted a short while.
The Faerie continued, "I think this spell might
work. I think I can do it, too." She silently mouthed some words while raising
He was suddenly aware of the other two, of their
presence in his mind. Plus, he could feel some new powers. He could sense Faerie
magic, and the Skeith's stubborn resilience.
Mr. Farun was in for a nasty surprise.
Jeran felt like he was getting his strength back.
Poor Mr. Farun had been taken over by them, the first time they had actually
controlled someone. That realization fed his rage and his desire to defeat The
Three. The intense fight continued.
One day, Jeran, you will beg us to stop,
said the Gelert in his head.
Then he heard another fuzzy voice, but this one
wasn't in a memory. It was the memory.
No…please don't do it. Don't make me do it.
Why? Why do you do this? Why can't you do something merciful for a change? Please
don't-Jeran! NO! Please, why won't it end; why won't I wake up from this nightmare?
Jeran forced himself to keep a grip on the sword.
Those had been Kass's thoughts…before he, Jeran, had fallen. He shuddered, starting
"The best part," said the Gelert out loud, "is
that we can hurt those closest to you, even if we end your misery. Remember
this, when we have you, and you think that even if we put an end to you, you
would be happier. Remember this thought, this wretched memory, and remember
those that love you, like your sister."
The next thought that was forced upon him was
from someone he had spoken to rarely. The Court Dancer…
What happened? Kass, what happened? Where
are you? …Where is he? Did he finally escape? He must have! But…they're laughing.
Why are The Three so happy? Stop laughing, and tell me what happened! No! Don't
tell me he's…No, you wouldn't have…killed him…Right? Kass is alive, and he beat
you. He is somewhere far away and happy, I bet. He is…Oh… Kass! Nooooooooo!
Jeran didn't think he could last very much longer
if this continued. Around him, shouts of pain, cries of "Now!" from Sally, and
noises from outside, where the Dariganians and the Meridellian zombies fought
distracted him. Then…
"Mr. Scary?" asked Sally suddenly.
The Three whirled towards the door as one, everything
they had been doing forgotten-he gratefully dropped to his knees, letting the
sword clatter to the floor-and sent a spell flying.
The spell would have hit Lord Darigan, who had
just arrived, but he was bowled over by the Darigan Eyrie behind him.
There was a shout of, "Yikes! These zombies are
kind of freaky!" A Lupe, an Aisha, and a Buzz dashing in followed that remark.
The Faerie scowled. "You three again! So, the
spell wore off and you remembered who we were! I suppose you stopped Morguss
and Illusen. Oh well, I suppose I'll call in the zombies to finish everyone
off now. It's been fun, but we've got places to conquer and people to frighten!"
Hundreds of hypnotized Meridellians came pouring
in and proceeded to attack.
Standing up, Jeran got an idea. No one could
kill them here. But if he could force an encounter in their dream world, he
No, he would then have to use his sword in a
place where their magic was more powerful than usual. If he almost failed while
using it in the real world, he should avoid the dream world at all costs.
Fending off attackers, he grimaced. With The
Three controlling them, the Neopets-and petpets; they had left no one out-wouldn't
give up until they were dead, and it was questionable then.
Zahi came flapping over to him, the only one
there that still looked genuinely thrilled to be alive. "Hey Jeran!" he yelled.
"Do you think they'll make trading cards of this when we're done? Wait, sorry,
I was supposed to be delivering a message to you. Lord Darigan says that magic
can be dangerous, and if you're using magic you should be careful, because it
can take you over in a sense if you get to like using it too much. I don't know
why he wanted me to tell you that, but-oh, he also told me to tell you that
all of Neopia's light casts shadows. Got that? Okay, now about the trading-"
A zombie leaped onto him, and the Eyrie was knocked away.
The knight fought off more zombies, and wondered
about the warning about magic. Why did he need to know that?
"Jeran! Heads up!" From across the room, Darigan
got his attention, and then threw him a golden-hilted sword.
Jeran caught it, and without hesitation, leaped
towards his own sword. Now he had a weapon to fight with. He gripped the hilt
of the cursed blade, and willed himself to go to their world. The Three looked
shocked, but they smiled and vanished to their dream world, letting all of their
spells fall apart.
The Lupe knight's eyes closed, and he appeared
to fall asleep.
To be continued…