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When I was only a fledgling, barely knee-high to a Kau, I loved to listen to my father's tales. He had many tales to tell, but I would always beg for a story about the terrible monsters in Meridell. In his younger days, he had led a small band in the war to win back the Orb -- a war that was lost, and pitched the once-peaceful kingdom of Darigan into dark times. Still, they fought with honour and valour, and I wanted nothing more than to be a soldier when I was big enough, just as my father had before me.
I soon learned that the life of a soldier was far less glamorous and exciting than the stories, when I enrolled at the training academy. Still, I did my very best; practicing with sword and shield until my arms ached, studying the thick dusty tactics books and maps until my eyes drooped, and inventing new flips and loops in the air with my friends -- that was my favourite, of course. All of my studies paid off when I was at last granted my sword and shield, blazoned with the sigil of Lord Darigan, in a ceremony beneath the great arch of the Citadel. He took each of our hands in turn as we swore our vows to protect our great kingdom, and my heart filled with pride as I looked out to the reddening sky. I knew then, as Lord Darigan took my paw, that I would do anything for the people of the kingdom.
We enjoyed a time of relative peace, if not great prosperity: every day without the Orb, our crops failed and the earth was black with blight. At last the storm broke, and the order was given to assemble for the first attack on Meridell. I had proven myself in lesser skirmishes before, and I was appointed leader of the aerial unit.
We fought with everything we had, but when Lord Darigan fell, the kingdom was once again thrown into chaos. With no obvious successor to the throne, we were lost and the captains and generals did their best to soothe the fears of the people, even appointing a council to choose a new king. I was ill at ease - I could not believe that Lord Darigan was gone, and I was sure that he would return to set things to right again.
Kass was a lesser general and in fact one of my class-mates at the training academy. He had always been brash, possessed of more guts than brains, but he was clever enough to know exactly what to say to the crowds. It was not long before he had styled himself "Lord Kass" and seated himself upon Darigan's vacant throne, with a growing army of supporters. It uneased me, but I still held hope that Lord Darigan would return and Kass's treason would be punished. Quite the opposite happened. Kass began to lock up all of Lord Darigan's advisors in the dungeon: Master Vex, General Gargarath, and the council. The devious Eyrie had spies everywhere, and any whisper of complaint was grounds enough for imprisonment. I knew that there were others who knew him for the false king that he was, and though it pained me I knew that we had to leave the Citadel.
Our opportunity came one evening, the sky burning red as pillars of smoke poured from the remains of the training school where both I and Lord Kass had learned to wield a sword. In the shrieking chaos, the guards took no notice of us as we fled to a deserted quarter of the city and quietly slipped over the wall. Those who could fly carried the others, and we traveled on through the dead of night to ensure we were not followed. We made our temporary home in the side of a mountaintop overlooking the verdant fields of Meridell, where once many of us crossed swords with their knights. I knew that Kass intended an attack, but did they?
I knew what we must do. We had to go to Meridell and lend our swords to their defense. Strange that such a short time ago, we were bitter enemies. I had sworn to serve Lord Darigan and protect his subjects, even if it meant allying with Meridell to do so. I worried that Skarl and his knights would not accept our aid, or even attack us outright, but to my surprise they welcomed us with open arms. I felt foolish for believing my childhood tales of the terrible people of Meridell -- they were only trying to survive, the same as we had. Their crops were trampled by the battles as well, and many of their fine knights died, just as ours had.
Now that Kass is gone, returned to the dark place from where he came, I believe that the rift between our two kingdoms can be repaired.
And I no longer believe in monsters.
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