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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 13th day of Swimming, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 98 > New Series > Fates Entwined: Part One

Fates Entwined: Part One

by tdyans

Part One by Tdyans

Nearly a year ago, the members of The Neopian Times Appreciation Guild began a project—an experiment, really—that we called the Round Series. The main idea behind this project was that we would write a series together, with each part being written by one of the different authors who signed up to help. As the series progressed, we also enlisted some of our talented artists to illustrate their visions of the story. Now “Fates Entwined”— as the guild members have voted to call it — is finally completed, and the experiment turned out better than we could have ever expected. The basic idea for the plot comes from our message board speculations about what the story behind the then-new world of Meridell would be. Of course, the actual plot turned out to be vastly different, but you can think of this as a chapter from Meridell’s past. In any case, we hope that you enjoy it, and I’d like to say a big thank you and congratulations to everyone who has participated and contributed to the success of this series and to all of the members of NTAG, both past and present. --Tdyans, NTAG Editor-in-Chief

Lightning darted through the night sky, illuminating the silhouette of the distant castle as a faint knock sounded at the door of the humble cottage. The three Lupes who huddled inside the leaky hovel looked up and exchanged glances before one of the males walked slowly to the door and opened it to reveal a strangely-dressed Aisha. The odd visitor stared into the troubled eyes of the Lupe before him and then went to stand quietly in the shadowy corner of the cottage and wait until he was asked for.

     The shadowed Lupe who had opened the door resumed his pacing, and the Aisha observed the tattered peasant’s clothes that seemed to fit him poorly-- not only because he was terribly thin, but for other less obvious reasons as well. The second male, a green Lupe, sat at a small, wooden table at one end of the room. In the impeccable clothing of a Meridell noble, he looked completely out of place inside the dingy cottage, and a forlorn expression creased his face as his eyes darted between the other Neopets in the room.

     The third inhabitant of the cottage was a yellow Lupess who wore the same drab, ragged clothing as the shadowed male. She sat on the tiny, bowed bed, clutching two bundles to her chest and weeping quietly. Finally, the shadowed Lupe ceased his pacing, and with a sigh he resolutely approached her and bent down to look into her tear-filled eyes. “Gretana,” he spoke tenderly, his eyes darting to the two tiny bundles, “you know that this is what we must do, don’t you? This is the right thing.” She nodded sadly, but still flinched instinctively when he reached out and gently took one of the bundles from her.

     Staring down fondly at the tiny green Lupe pup who laid in his arms, he walked over to the noble, who stood up quickly from his seat at the table and stood ramrod straight. The peasant held the baby out to him, and the noble awkwardly stuck his arms out to accept the precious bundle. “His name is Luparn,” the peasant Lupe stated as the noble stared down at the small creature in awe.

     The noble looked up from the baby and finally spoke, nodding his head quickly up and down. “Luparn... I will raise him as my own, as a noble, your highness. He will have all of the best things in life-- all that a childhood in the royal court could offer. I promise you that. He will be Lord Luparn... not a prince as he rightly deserves, your highness, but it’s all I can give....”

     “It’s all I ask, Sarkif,” the shadowed Lupe sighed. “And please stop calling me ‘your highness.’ I am no longer the king of Meridell. Whether rightfully or not, Mordeo holds the crown now.”

     The noble, Sarkif, looked crestfallen. “I am sorry, yo-- Lupold, but I don’t think I will ever stop thinking of you as my king. And I know that I will never see that dark-hearted Draik as such.” His voice escalated in anger as he spoke of Mordeo.

     Lupold, the former king of Meridell, now reduced to a simple peasant by Mordeo, put a calming paw on his former noble’s shoulder. “I know, old friend. I am sorry. You are the only one who has remained loyal to me through everything, and you were always my most trusted noble and confidant. That is why I am entrusting you with my son. I know that I will never come to power again, but perhaps, with your help, he will someday take his rightful place on the throne....”

     Sarkif nodded quietly, turning his attention back to the baby that slept in the warm cradle of his arms, until Lupold suddenly spoke again. “There is one more thing.” The noble watched as Lupold walked slowly over to a shelf on the other side of the room and carefully lifted a long, flat object from it. “I want him to have this,” Lupold stated, removing the sheath to reveal a steel blade that shone under the dim candlelight-- the only thing in the dirty cottage that shone any more. “When he is old enough,” he added as he held the sword out to Sarkif.

     Sarkif gasped. “But your highness--” he said, forgetting himself at the sight of the legendary and mighty sword that had been Lupold’s faithful weapon through all of his greatest victories.

     Lupold slid the sword back into its sheath and shook his head before Sarkif could continue. “I have no more use for it, Sarkif. Take it, and teach him to use it well. At least then he will have something left of me in his life, even if he does not know it.” Sarkif nodded again and slowly reached his free hand out to take the sword and stuff it safely into his belt.

     Lupold turned back to his wife, the former queen of Meridell, and held out his arms to take a child from her once more. But Gretana shook her head at him, resolution shining in her teary eyes, and stood up from the bed to approach the stranger herself. The Lost Desert Aisha walked slowly out of the shadows to meet her halfway and held his paws out to take the child. She held the baby back for a moment as she examined the strangely-dressed creature before her. “His name is Lupold,” she told him. “After his father.”

     The Aisha shook his head sympathetically. “His name will be changed of course. He must have a Lost Desert name.”

     The tears that she had been holding back began to seep from Gretana’s eyes again as she looked down at the little shadowed pup, the spitting image of his father. “Oh Lupold,” she said, turning to her beloved husband in distress. “Can’t we let Sarkif take him too. At least then they would be together, and maybe we’d get to see them both from time to time, even if it was from a distance….”

     “No Gretana, you know we can’t,” Lupold said, trying to sound stern, struggling not to succumb to the grief in her eyes. “The prophecy says that twin Lupes of royal blood will destroy the dark king and restore peace to Meridell someday. Mordeo knows this, and if he sees Sarkif with two Lupe pups, he will become suspicious. Our sons are only safe apart.” He paused and swallowed painfully. “Far, far apart.”

     He turned back to the desert Aisha then and questioned, “King Kepsel has agreed to what I asked in my letter? He will raise my son as his own?”

     The Aisha nodded, offering a comforting smile. “Yes, my king has decided to name him Coltzan. It is a name of greatness-- the name of two of our most honored kings of the past. He will be King Coltzan III of Sakhmet, someday.”

     Lupold nodded and turned again to his wife. “He will be a king, Gretana. That is so much more than we can offer him now. And besides the three of us in this room, no one in Meridell knows anything about the outside world, not even Mordeo. And only King Kepsel and a few of his most trusted advisors and servants in Sakhmet know of our kingdom. He will be safe. That is more than we can ask.” Gretana nodded, her jaw quivering as she took a deep breath and handed her second pup over to the waiting desert Aisha. As soon as the bundle had left her hands, she turned and clung to Lupold, burying her face in his chest and beginning to sob.

     “I will protect the new prince of Sakhmet with my life on our journey. I promise you that, once-king of Meridell,” the Aisha said dutifully. Lupold nodded and then leaned over his crying wife to look down at the tiny pup for what he knew would be the last time ever. Almost as if he sensed that this was an important moment, the pup opened his big, brown eyes and stared up at his father. A smile crinkled the corners of Lupold’s eyes even as he felt his heart breaking, and the small Lupe smiled back contentedly before curling up into the soft blankets around him and falling back to sleep.

     Lupold forced himself to look up and away, steeling himself as he led the two visitors, each of them clinging to a tiny bundle, to the door of the cottage. He opened the door and ushered them out, putting a comforting arm around Gretana as she continued to cry. Sarkif and the Aisha walked off into the night, splitting off in different directions.

     “Take good care of them!” the former king called out into the howling wind as the Lupe and Aisha disappeared from his sight in the inky blackness that surrounded Meridell. “They have a destiny to fulfil!”

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Fates Entwined: Part Two

Fates Entwined: Part Three

Fates Entwined: Part Four

Fates Entwined: Part Five

Fates Entwined: Part Six

Fates Entwined: Part Seven

Fates Entwined: Part Eight

Fates Entwined: Part Nine

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