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Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)

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Week 363
You are on Week 364
Week 365

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Three Hundred Sixty Four Ends April 11

The fires in the furnace roared even louder as the blue Draik fed some more wood into them, casting a reddish glow on the stone walls of Brightvale Glaziers. His first weeks as an apprentice there had been quiet ones, and he felt as if he were learning (even if he mostly spent his days stoking the fires and sweeping up shards of glass that he broke with his clumsiness). The master glazier, also a blue Draik, was a kind teacher, but it was the quietness of it all that he couldn't adjust to.

Now that the fire was hot enough, he carefully slid the blob of molten glass on the end of a tube back into the flames, watching as it heated until it was glowing white. Once it was liquefied enough, he'd add some special salts to turn it a brilliant red, perfect for the rose window he was making. Yes, he told himself, this is good work, safe work. And yet...

"Have you heard the news?" asked the master glazier as he entered the room, looping a green and gold apron over his head.

The younger Draik, still frowning with concentration over his molten glass, shook his head, so the master glazier went on, "Seems there's trouble over in Meridell."

At that point, there was a crash as the tongs holding the glass fell from the other Draik's claws. Shards of newly red glass skittered across the floor like a swarm of Squippits. "What is it?" he asked the master glazier.

"Well, I can't say for sure. Something about traitors, from what I could make out." He looked at his apprentice, who was standing silently and staring at the ground. "Are you all right?"

The younger Draik didn't answer, but just kept his gaze fixed on the ground, on a shard of red glass that looked remarkably like a sword. "Never again," he murmured...

Author: Living in the Past
Date: Apr 7th
"What do you mean 'never again'?" the master glazier asked curiously, taken aback by the reaction of his student. "What has you so worked up, Rorin?"

"I'm afraid that for all your kindness, I have not been terribly truthful with you," said the younger Draik, looking into the blazing furnace guiltily. "You don't even really know my name... it isn't Rorin like I told you when we first met... it's Valrigard."

The master glazier looked at the other Draik with his eyebrows raised incredulously. "You mean to tell me that this whole time I've been harbouring a fugitive? The only Neopet ever to escape the dungeons of Meridell?"

"That's right," Valrigard said softly. "You can feel free to hate me; all I ask is that you don't tell anyone about this until after I leave."

The master glazier let out a bellowing laugh that made Valrigard jump. "My dear boy, do you really think I would turn you in? I was just surprised that the Draik who thwarted guards and evaded traps was so very clumsy when it came to handling glass."

Valrigard smiled weakly at the old Draik. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would meet someone as kind as you after I escaped. I wish I could stay here and live out my life as I had planned, but all this talk of another traitor... I have to stop it."

"If that’'s what you wish, then I have no right to stop you," the master said, grabbing a broom from the side wall and sweeping up the shards of glass that littered the floor.

"I can do that," Valrigard said, stepping forward to grab the broom.

The master glazier shook his head, declining the help. "I have a feeling, my boy, that you are no longer my apprentice... it would be rude of me to ask you to do this when you no longer belong here."

The younger Draik pulled back sadly, a bitter smile on his face. "I wish I could stay, but the pull of this is too strong. I have a feeling that Skarl's adviser is playing games with the lives of knights again, and I cannot in good conscience allow it to continue."

The master glazier nodded, staring down at the glass that he had swept together, the red of it twinkling like the burning embers of a fire, or perhaps more like the cold burning he had seen from the beginning in the eyes of his apprentice. "If you need supplies, I will give them to you, and the sword that you first possessed when you showed up on the steps of my shop is still locked in the storage shed in the back."

Valrigard nodded, saying nothing as he prepared to leave. His former master, true to his word, had prepared a bundle of supplies and it was sitting near the front door. At long last, he went to the shed, opening the creaky door and peering around. Propped against the wall was his old sword, its serrated edges glistening in the dusty light like fangs thirsting for battle.

When he gripped the hilt, everything came rushing back, and the weeks he had spent in Brightvale Glaziers became a faraway dream, something ephemeral that could never be touched again. The reality now was revenge, and with that ugly bitterness rearing its head, he turned away from the place he had so dearly wished to have called home and headed for the castle of Meridell, where he had once spent three long years in chains...

Author: scarletspindle
Date: Apr 7th
Spreading his wings, Valrigard flew.

Regret fluttered in the far reaches of his mind. He'd wanted nothing more than to settle down and live a quiet life outside of Meridell. He'd wanted to forget the years wasted in those gloomy dungeons of that accursed castle and start anew.

Deep in his heart, the Draik had known it wasn't going to last. There'd always be another call for bravery, and his knight's soul didn't allow him to stand idle with a clear conscience as another Neopet suffered unjustly.

The cool air danced around him, twisting and coiling like tendrils of a faerie's magic. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, enjoying a last minute of peace before he'd throw himself into the heart of the fire again.

The irony of it all. He'd hoped to never again see that castle that now loomed before him on the horizon, its double doors seeming like the imposing maw of some giant beast.

But he wasn't going to allow another knight to suffer because of an adviser's ambitions...

With a Draik's grace, he angled downward and plunged to the ground like a shooting star, a streak of blue in the late afternoon sky.

He squinted at the castle. Was it just him, or did that great sentinel of white stone look somehow... different?

It took Valrigard a few moments to discover the change, and when he found it, a jolt of ice pierced his heart.

Meridell's flag had changed.

No longer did the ensign of red and blue flutter above the kingdom. No longer did banners of crimson and cerulean hang down from the castle walls. Skarl's colours had been taken down.

In their place was a new emblem, one Valrigard recognised all too well...

Author: dianacat777
Date: Apr 8th
...the green and gold of Brightvale!

Valrigard stared at Hagan's flags, the banners of the land that had taken him in and shown him mercy, and his mind stumbled; his plans shattered like glass cooled too quickly. He would have expected almost anything else. Darigan's ominous purple, say, if the uneasy peace treaty had been broken. Ramtor's own family crest in paler blue and rich gold, if the evil Bruce adviser had grown bold enough for that. Some other puppet's coat of arms. Most likely, he would have thought, would be Meridell's own colours as usual -- proud flags and bunting to disguise the corruption inside and make it appear all was well.

It hadn't occurred to him that things could have gone so very wrong already as to have changed the flags.

And it certainly hadn't crossed his mind that it would be Brightvale.

Suddenly, Valrigard wished he had stayed longer to ask Master Oriel what was going on. And there was another worry. Oriel was kind, but it seemed likely that if Meridell and Brightvale were in conflict, his loyalties would lie with his home. The master glazier had let him leave, but would he have sent warning ahead by some swift courier? Valrigard was far younger than his teacher, but he wasn't exactly young, either. He had already been grown and knighted when the current King's Champion Jeran wandered out of the woods around Illusen's Glade as a child. The right Neopet or Petpet messenger could have outstripped him.

So now he had to worry about Brightvale's apparent treachery, on top of Meridell's laws and Adviser Ramtor's machinations.

The aim of his course was still clear, though. He had to do his utmost to save both his homeland and his colleagues... whatever they might think of him in the process.

Clearly, it would require stealth. Well, he had plenty of practice at that. He wasn't likely to make it through the front doors, though.

In fact, after due consideration, he thought his best chance was probably the dungeons.

Valrigard took off again, taking care not to look as if he intended to sneak anywhere, and splashed noisily down into the moat. It was an obstacle to certain types of attacks, but not particularly one to anyone who could fly or swim well, and some Neopets even played in it. After a few minutes, however, he submerged himself and dived for a certain gap in the inner wall of it.

He was still underwater for a considerable distance, almost the limit of his lung capacity, but at last he broke the surface of the water and followed the damp drainage ditch farther uphill and into the very opening that had at last let him squeeze out of the upper levels of the dungeons. He looked up one last time at the sky through a tangle of thornbushes that had grown in the moisture that leaked out, and then he was back inside.

He made his way in haste and silence along the comparatively unguarded passageway. Getting into the dungeon had been the easy part, since they apparently hadn't figured out how he'd first escaped. Getting into the upper levels of the castle, that was going to be a good trick.

Valrigard paused and dodged into a side passage at the top of some stairs as he saw flickering torchlight ahead. Not coming toward him, but up in the next passageway. He peered cautiously out and watched a pair of guards go by. Blast, they'd gotten smarter. Still, if he could knock someone down who had keys, he might be able to get upstairs.

He'd have to get closer, scope out whether anyone else was near enough to hear. He should be able to take a pair, if he did it right.

Valrigard started to move out into the previous hallway again -- and heard voices coming up the stairway. He gasped, heart pounding, and flattened himself against the wall -- but after a moment he realised that the voices weren't getting closer. They were merely getting louder.

There was a distinctive scrape of claws on the metal bars of the cells. He heard a clank that could only be someone strong enough -- stronger than he had been -- to wrench at the barred door hard enough for it to rattle in its place.

And he recognised both the voices. One was Jeran Borodere. And the other...

Author: schefflera
Date: Apr 8th
...was deeper, filled with outraged indignation.


Valrigard had the oddest sense that he was losing his grip on reality. Perhaps the hours spent gazing through hazy fumes into a prison of smouldering embers as glass took its shape had wreaked havoc with his sanity. Surely there was no other explanation for this situation. The rattling bars certainly supported his theory that Brightvale's king was trapped down here; Hagan was sturdy and powerful, much more so than his stout sibling.

The Draik slowly moved over the chilling stones that lay upon the dungeon floor. How many times had he sat for hours, watching a small Petpetpet travel over those roughly placed rocks, counting each tiny step? That had been a time when the hours were plentiful and any excuse to keep his mind sharp was a good one; time wasn't so generous now and the situation had him bewildered. Pressed up against the cool stone wall, the Draik focused all his attention, confirming his earlier suspicions.

Hagan and Jeran locked in a cell? Then why did Hagan's colours fly upon the turrets of Meridell Castle?

Questions assailed his mind like arrows flung from a quivering bow. Why was Hagan locked up if his flag flew over a supposedly submissive realm? Jeran's imprisonment had been somewhat expected; the noble Lupe was Meridell's greatest champion, so any foe would not hesitate to make sure the brave knight wouldn't cause trouble.

Another question weighed heavily.

If Hagan is here... where is Skarl? Locked up in Brightvale somewhere? Who is running the two kingdoms? Valrigard asked himself.

This wasn't the work of Meridell's king, Valrigard was certain of it. Skarl was a cantankerous creature with firm ambitions, but framing his own brother and endangering Meridell didn't seem to count among his desires.

Whoever did this wanted to frame Hagan. They want everyone to think Brightvale has invaded its neighbour.

When Valrigard considered the idea, it did seem almost laughable. Tranquil little Brightvale, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the arts attacking Meridell, with its fine tradition of knighthood and wealth.

But someone knew that the panicking masses wouldn't look for logic. They would just understand that Brightvale has attacked. Someone wanted to start a war...

Who, though, would benefit from watching Meridell and Brightvale destroy one another?

The Draik's brow furrowed. Disturbing as his realisations were, he wasn't going to make much progress curled up against a freezing wall within a dark dungeon. The only logical step was to approach the cell that held Jeran and Hagan, all the while hoping that neither was so shocked to see what was little more than a ghost from the past that they cried out. He had no desire to join them in their prison.

Taking a deep breath, Valrigard glanced to the left of the shadowy passage that led out from his hiding place. Nothing. The right, too, seemed clear. With adrenaline coursing through his form, the Draik stepped forward, only to gasp in shock as he was grabbed from behind, his mouth covered as a hushed voice hissed…

Author: anjie
Date: Apr 9th
"Get back!"

The words didn't register in Valrigard's brain. Speech had ceased to mean anything to him when the paws had seized him. He had been captured.

Reverting to his most basic soldier's instincts, the blue Draik proceeded to struggle and thrash as violently as he could. His paw shot down to unsheathe his trusty sword, but the other Neopet had already grabbed his arm.

"Stop that or they'll hear you!" hissed the voice, gripping Valrigard with more power than the Draik would have expected.

Valrigard fell limp, more out of shock than obedience. Because he recognised the speaker, even though it seemed like years since he had last heard him, rather than just an hour.

"Oriel?" he choked.

The other Draik let go, pulling Valrigard against the wall. "More quietly," he warned.

Valrigard reeled. This couldn't be real. First, there'd been another 'traitor' in Meridell; that was believable, albeit unfortunate. But then suddenly Hagan was imprisoned in a castle dungeon he'd been framed of annexing -- with Meridell's most esteemed knight, too, he couldn't forget that -- and now his mentor had waltzed right into the scene? A very jumbled, nostalgic dream seemed to be the only possibility.

But if it was real...

Valrigard struggled for words for a handful of seconds. At last, he found his tongue. "What are you doing here?" he spluttered.

The master glazier gazed into Valrigard's eyes. "Looking for you. And Hagan, but there isn't much I can do until I find a ring of keys."

"But why?" The Draik struggled to keep his voice low. "It's too dangerous here!"

A low, rusty chuckle rumbled in Oriel's throat, before his face returned back to serious solemnity. "I may be old, and not as strong as I used to be, but I can still wave a sword around. And I have a duty to my king."

Valrigard opened his mouth to reply, but Oriel thrust a hand over his mouth, pressing him up against the cold wall.

Footsteps echoed a floor above, getting louder, and then fading into the distance. Whoever it was hadn't been heading to the dungeons.

"Why are you here?" Valrigard repeated, much more quietly. "Why did you want me?"

Oriel sighed. "I came to plead for help, although now I realise I'm probably not going to find any. Not only has King Hagan has been kidnapped, but Brightvale is under attack by..."

Author: dianacat777
Date: Apr 9th
"...the Haunted Woods," Oriel finished.

Valrigard's mouth fell open, and he couldn't help but splutter, "The Woods?" He could understand if it had been Darigan -- and right now, his mind even said Meridell was more logical than this -- but the Haunted Woods?

"Yes, I am afraid so," Oriel said, sadness filling his eyes. "Droves of beasts -- Werelupes and Bearogs, spectres and monsters the likes of which only dwell in the darkest of nightmares.... They suddenly left the trees and rose against us, no leader amongst them, merely ravaging legions of soldiers.... We were caught defenseless."

Valrigard was barely comprehending any of this. Who would gain from such an attack? There was no ruling body in the Woods, so certainly they had to have been lured from their abode by an outside entity. Surely this wasn't Skarl -- there was no way he could control them all -- but...perhaps...could it truly be Ramtor?

No doubt the adviser was up to his old schemes again, framing Knights for crimes they didn't commit so he could overtake the throne. But this time, he'd taken it a step further, made the Meridellians believe Brightvale was invading while Brightvale was being overcome by hordes of monstrous beasts. Then, as the legions rose upon Meridell, there would truly be no hope for the kingdom's survival -- until, at last, by the grace of conspiracy, Ramtor stepped forth and drove away the very soldiers he'd summoned upon them. It was a brilliantly clever plan, Valrigard had to admit, but Ramtor had been foiled before, and he assured himself that the Bruce would be foiled once again. Not in his lifetime would Ramtor ever gain the throne, not if he had anything to do with it.

And right now, he had everything to do with it.

"Valrigard," Oriel said, clasping the younger Draik's shoulders and gazing deeply into his widened eyes, "can I trust you?"

Valrigard speechlessly nodded.

Master Oriel smiled. "Then find the keys and return here. You can do this, yes?"

Valrigard grinned. "It's not the first time I've needed keys to get out of here, is it?"

"No, I suppose it's not." Oriel's gaze wandered off towards the cell for a moment. "I shall go speak with them; Hagan will likely trust me more than he will trust you--" Oriel spun to his apprentice, his face furrowed. "I didn't mean--"

"I know," Valrigard said. "I understand."

And there, they parted ways.

Finding the keys was easier than Valrigard had thought it would be. He already knew where every guard station was, and once he'd reached the nearest one, all he had to do was wait. Soon enough, one of the guards excused himself from a boisterous round of drinks, and once he'd reached the hall's end, Valrigard took his opportunity to strike. In no time at all, the Ixi guard was draped across his back and the ring of keys dangled from his claws.

Not more than a few minutes later, Valrigard was sliding the unconscious Ixi into the emptied cell under the watchful eyes of Hagan, Oriel, and Jeran before he swung the door shut and tossed the keys aside.

Once again, his master took Valrigard by the shoulders and focused his pristine eyes upon the younger Draik's. "I thank you, my friend. You have proven a greater apprentice than I could have ever hoped for."

The lustrous glint of a tear appeared in Valrigard's eye. "Thank you, Master, I..."

Jeran rested his paw upon Master Oriel's arm. "I am sorry, but we must..."

Oriel nodded and released Valrigard. He looked up at his king, then smiled and turned back to the younger blue Draik. "I shall lead King Hagan back to Brightvale." He glanced at the blue Lupe to his left before gazing back at his apprentice. "It is now up to the both of you to save Meridell from Ramtor's clutches."

The two Meridellian knights nodded in unison. "You can be assured we'll defeat him," Jeran said.

"M-master," Valrigard whispered as Oriel began to turn away, "please, take care. Send word soon."

Jeran pulled the Draik to face him. "There is no time for long goodbyes, Valrigard. If we're to save our kingdom, we must act now."

Valrigard breathed in and blinked aside his tears. "I understand."

Jeran grinned, and they began running down the darkened hall.

* * * * *

The armored Ixi that Valrigard had locked in the cell slowly began to stir. After a moment or two, he sat up and gazed through blurry eyes towards the bars before him.

Where is Jeran? he wondered. Where is Hagan?

The Ixi blinked his eyes, realisation suddenly striking him as he bolted to his feet and swore loudly. He'd been warned this might happen, and he knew exactly what to do.

He dug his hand into his pocket and withdrew a small, crystalline sphere the size of a large marble. He shook it for a moment, and as he drew it closer to his face, its surface began to change...

Author: micrody
Date: Apr 10th
...from a cloudy mystified colour into something much more sickly. The face of an elderly Bruce filled the sphere, his eyes burning with power and his face coiled into an emotionless void.

“Master!” called the Ixi, sweat beginning to spread over his petrified face, “Master! It has happened! The prisoners have been freed; I am so sorry my master! I couldn’t stop it!”

“Silence…” wheezed the Bruce, “It is of no importance anymore. Meridell is under my power, and Brightvale is doomed to join it.”

“But master!” interrupted the Ixi, confused yet clearly relieved of his narrow avoidance of punishment, “Jeran and Hagan are free! Hagan has enough wisdom to stop anything and Jeran the power! This could mean an end to your plans!”

“Fool!” Bellowed Ramtor, his face fumed with rage, “Do you honestly think that I would be defeated by them? Do you seriously underestimate me that much? I have my plans you lowlife guard, and when the moon rises to its highest peak tonight, my full power shall be released once more unto Neopia!”

A harsh malevolent laugh filled the dungeons as Ramtor watched the moon slowly rising from the east.

* * * * *

Jeran and Valrigard stormed through the empty dungeons, narrowly avoiding the skeleton remains, and ended up in the castle corridors that Valrigard had formerly known to have been home to an essence of warmth. Now, however, little of this glorious memory remained. The statues of Skarl were smashed all over the ruby red carpet, and in their place hanged portraits of a malicious Bruce the duo knew too well. Valrigard winced as he continued to follow Jeran down the endless halls.

It was only when passing the castle treasury that Valrigard stopped, Jeran pausing with curiosity.

“What is it?” asked the puzzled Lupe, itching to be on the move again.

“Do you know what we are getting ourselves into?” spoke the Draik, pausing to catch his breath from the tiresome sprint.

“We have no times for plans, the future of Meridell is in our hands and we have no time to waste!”

“But...Ramtor is a truly powerful foe, and he must be more powerful than we have ever known him to be in order to conjure up such an act of treason. Who knows what secret weapons he is holding; he may even know of our surprise attack!”

“He may know, Valrigard, but we have no other choice. A knight must put his kingdom and king before everything, including his life. Surely…surely you remember this.”

Valrigard nodded. He was a knight, and his priorities revolved around the land of Meridell. He had no other choice. If he was to redeem himself as the brave warrior he once was, he would have to accept the status.

Jeran smiled at him warmly before running yet again. Valrigard’s heart jumped with every step they took. Every step was closer to Ramtor. Every step was closer to the inevitable battle deciding Meridell’s fate. He was certain that Hagan was wise enough to restore peace to Brightvale, but it was solely in himself and Jeran’s hands to cleanse Meridell of this depression, and it was this fact that made Valrigard the more conscious of his actions. He counted every door that passed and every step that was made.

It took little time for the duo to reach the seemingly endless staircase reaching towards the sky.

“I am certain he is on the roof,” explained Jeran, “I can sense the magical flow.”

Valrigard knew exactly what the brave Lupe meant. Something was in the air, as if a presence. This only increased the Draik’s fear however. Ramtor was conjuring up something. Something powerful.

“Are you ready for this Valrigard?” asked the Lupe. Valrigard nodded slowly, inhaled deeply and set off for the roof. The stars of the nights sky welcomed him as he landed on the rooftop, each sparkling with an eerie glow.

Valrigard turned. There in the centre was Ramtor, his blue cloak following the winds every movement. He was holding a jewel which mirrored the moons light imaginably. Although beautiful, however, the Jewel was vibrating rapidly and a mystical aura surrounded it.

“Now,” Said Ramtor, his voice echoing off of the entire kingdom below as he stared at the ever rising moon, “the entire kingdom shall know exactly who to bow to, and what better people to start off with than you.” His eyes glinted towards Jeran as the jewel in his hand vibrated faster...

Author: icesmith
Date: Apr 10th
The unearthly glow that emitted from the radiant jewel engulfed Jeran first. Valrigard watched in horror as the valiant Lupe sank to his knees, expression seeming dreamlike and blank; as if the once noble Jeran had suddenly lost the ability to think for himself, the ability to do anything but bow to the malevolent creature who laughed as his enemy submitted.

There was no time to do much. When Valrigard looked back upon the events it was as if everything had happened in slow motion. Like each motion had been relaxed and well thought out, planned to perfection and executed with careful thought. This wasn’t the case, what would occur happened in a manner of seconds.

As the gleam slithered over the bowing, unresponsive form of Jeran, Valrigard drew his sword, Ramtor’s mocking laughter filling his ears.

“A weapon, lad? Is that how you plan to defeat your future ruler? A tiny sword? It’s impossible, boy. Give it up.”

Valrigard smiled breathlessly and aimed the blunt side of the blade toward the creeping glow that sought to break him.

“I’ve been told things are impossible before, Ramtor.”

The light hit the blade with a strange, eerie shimmer, then reflected back toward the shocked Bruce. Wavering and glimmering the sheen danced back over Jeran; the Lupe collapsing as the scintillating spell was broken, his form falling hard upon the stone floor. Like a kaleidoscope of color the glimmering magic radiated from the blade, Valrigard struggling to stay upright; the power of the spell was immense.

The Draik felt was if he were being forcibly submerged under water. The sword itself almost seemed to be bending with the effort of reflecting the magic away from its bearer. Sweat flooded from the Draik, his teeth ground together violently as he took this final stand.

With a sudden flash the light hit Ramtor, the enraged Bruce brought to his knees in submission, caught within the web of treachery and magic he himself had woven. With a cry of pain, the Bruce dropped the radiating jewel, leaving it to clatter upon the ground, the light instantly seeking to conceal itself again within the dulling sphere; waxing and waning until the figures atop the roof were illuminated only by the moon’s whim.

Panting and exhausted, Valrigard swept his sword toward his fallen enemy, pressing the tip menacingly against Ramtor’s throat.

“It ends here, Advisor. Neopia is not to be yours.”

He didn’t know what he had expected as a reaction. Perhaps he was still naïve enough to think that Ramtor would admit defeat, bow in shame and vanish forever. It would be the kind of ending a story should have... simple, pure and easy. The good guys would win, Neopia would be safe. It was a foolish wish.

The ancient Bruce let out a wheezing, low cackle. The Draik’s first assumption was that it was a plea, yet as it continued his eyes widened in disgust. Ramtor was... laughing?

“Oh, lad. It may be over for me. But you still have two kingdoms in turmoil. Neopets out there, battling each other to the end over a conflict they don’t understand. That’s victory, boy. That’s victory.”

The words taunted the Draik, rage swelling within him. Even as the advisor lay, defeated and with a sword pressed to his throat, he refused to submit. There could be no victory without a defeat.

“But it’s meant to end here...” The Draik’s whisper sounded pathetic, even to his own ears. He could only imagine how it sounded to the chuckling Bruce.

Ramtor slowly smirked, aware that the Draik was faltering in his convictions.

“Never the hero, eh, lad? The stigma stays with you, I know. I’ll always be wicked; you’ll always be a traitor. At least I can embrace my reputation. My life isn’t wasted seeking redemption...”

With a roar of anger and defiance Valigrad lifted his sword above his head, striking it down towards the Bruce a second too late; with a shimmer of pure ebony that eclipsed the moon itself, the advisor vanished, leaving the Draik’s sword to clatter uselessly upon the stones as he dropped to his knees, defeated.

A gentle paw rested firmly upon Valigrad’s shoulder; Jeran had regained consciousness.

“He’s gone for now, Valigrad. Your quick thinking ensured you alone did not fall to his command. Surely you are a true asset to Meridell.”

The Draik smiled faintly. There wouldn’t be much of Meridell left if he couldn’t think quickly once more. Slowly his gaze lingered upon the distant road to Brightvale. Even in the eerie chill of night's grasp the sounds of battle drifted back upon the cool wind.

“We have to stop the fighting, Jeran. But it’s going to take one final betrayal...”

Author: anjie
Date: Apr 11th
Jeran's eyes widened in surprise at Valrigard's cryptic words. "Another betrayal..." the Lupe repeated, brows furrowed. "Valrigard... what are you planning?"

Valrigard turned back to the Lupe, meeting Jeran's eyes with a wry smile. "Did you hear him, Sir Jeran? Once a traitor, always a traitor. I can't change my past. I can't change what made me who I am." His voice was heavy, but filled with resolve, and the Draik got to his feet. Ramtor had been right, he had been framed for betraying his kingdom once and the redemption he had so desired from others would never truly be his. But he didn't need redemption to save his kingdom.

"Nonsense, you don't have to change what happened, Valrigard! You're a hero-" Jeran protested, but Valrigard raised a claw to stop the outflow of kindhearted words. The Draik's eyes were sad, but dark with determination.

"Jeran, we need to stop the fighting. We need to prove that Brightvale was innocent, and Ramtor is gone. We have no proof he was behind this," he explained, but Jeran interrupted him again.

"Meridell has our sworn testaments," Jeran declared, as if it were all that was necessary, but Valrigard was already shaking his head.

"Perhaps your word may count for something, but what value can Meridell place in the words of a traitor?" Valrigard asked. "Ramtor and his magic are gone," he continued, motioning towards the now dull and ordinary crystal. "King Skarl, wherever he is, probably won't remember what came over him." He met Jeran's eyes now, his gaze determined.

"Meridell needs a victory, Sir Jeran, but we didn't defeat anyone here. Meridell needs to know that it's all over, that the one behind this has been stopped, but we have nobody to blame." At this, he offered his hands, palms up, wrists together, towards Jeran, the picture of a prisoner waiting to be shackled. The Lupe's eyes widened in shock, then horror as Valrigard's plan dawned on him. His mouth formed a whispered "No..." but Valrigard was adamant.

"Give Meridell a traitor, Sir Jeran," he declared, his words soft but steadfast. "Give them peace."

And Jeran, his noble eyes filled with sorrow but acceptance, placed his hands over Valrigard's. "I swear this to you, Valrigard, on my honor as King's Champion. I will find Ramtor, and I will make him pay for his crimes. And when he is proven guilty, I will set you free."

Valrigard bowed his head, closing his eyes with a sigh.

"Thank you." Two words, lost from the pages of the history books.

* * * * *

And so it came to pass that Valrigard was convicted for Ramtor's crimes. He was returned to the dungeons he had once escaped from to serve his life sentence, but this time he would not escape. He didn't try.

Skarl was returned to his throne, and Meridellians and Brightvalians, seeing that neither kingdom was at fault, lay down their arms and returned to their normal lives. Ramtor's threat was gone, and the time of traitors had passed. If the King's Champion happened to visit the dungeons more often than normal, nobody noticed.

But Valrigard did not go unremembered. A week after the fighting had stopped, and peace had returned, a long flat package arrived on the back of a wagon. It was a gift from King Hagan, made by Brightvale Glaziers. The window was installed into the great hall, and now when the sun rises each day, the hall's occupants stop and marvel at the window. Many would declare it Master Oriel's finest work.

Etched in glass, forever remembered in Meridell's great hall, a blue Draik stands before the banners of both Brightvale and Meridell, his sword raised in triumph.

The End

Author: dark_angel72792
Date: Apr 11th

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