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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 16th day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 59 > New Series > Dragon Thieves: Echelon - Part One

Dragon Thieves: Echelon - Part One

by child_dragon

Naturally, like any other pet, we wanted to visit Meridell. But our trip turned out to be very different from what we expected. It all started with a rather odd duo, one that had a fondness for pranks and mischief.

"MIRACLESTAR!!!" Taffin shouted from upstairs in his room.

     "What?" she replied irritably, setting down another bag of groceries.

     "Can we got to Meridell?" he said, a little quieter now that he was downstairs.

     She looked at him for a while, thinking.

     "That's right. You haven't seen it yet."

     "Yeah. We all haven't. We were still in the pound."

     I nodded eagerly, wanting to see this world for myself also. She shrugged in agreement.

     "Sure, why not. Get the others and let's go. But first… help me with these groceries."

     So our trip to Meridell began. It was a perfectly clear day, and around noon we were reaching the borders of this medieval world. I carried a small dagger around my waist, as did all the Dragon Thieves, all the time. Habit, I guess. Taffin was nearly beside himself with excitement, and Skyil and Jaix were their usual quiet selves. I caught the sound of water first.

     "There's a river or something ahead," I murmured, proud of my excellent hearing.

     "Trust the Zafara to hear it first," Taffin muttered, tweaking my floppy ear.

     "Hey!" I shouted, aiming a fist in his direction.

     He yelped and took off running down the dirt path. I laughed and dropped to all fours, chasing after him.

     "You'll pay for that!" I shouted, my eyes on the giggling fire Kyrii ahead of me.

     We neared the river, and I saw him make straight for a wooden bridge spanning it. The river didn't appear deep, but it had steep sides making it hard to see down. He was about to reach the bridge when a shape flew up from the banks. Taffin tried to skid to a frantic stop, flaring his wings in a hopeless effort as a white Draik leaped on him, wielding a staff.

     "Ambush!" I screeched so MiracleStar and the others would hear, then rushed to the fight, drawing my dagger in one paw.

     Taffin desperately struggled with the Draik, trying to get out of range of the staff and draw his own dagger, but the other pet had the advantage. With a whoop, it kicked Taffin's feet out from under him, then with a clever twist, threw the Kyrii into the river. I heard him yelp, followed by a tremendous splash.

     "You!" I shouted, brandishing my dagger at the Draik.

     "Ah, another challenger!" he crowed.

     "Challenger? You just beat up my brother!" I snarled.

     "Well, yes, he was trying to cross the bridge without permission."

     "Since when do we need permission to cross a bridge?"

     I saw Taffin climbing out of the river, dripping water off his fur, gasping for breath.

     "Since we put a toll on it," the Draik replied.

     "Toll?" Taffin snarled, "I'll show you a toll!"

     And he came to stand next to me, drawing his own dagger. The Draik appeared unconcerned, until we heard the footsteps of MiracleStar and the other two.

     "Outnumbered," I said with a sweet smile.

     He looked at us calculatingly.

     "You don't know the rules of Meridell, don't you?"

     "No indeed, they don't," a new voice added.

     I saw a shadow Ixi climbing up the river bank, head held cockily.

     "What rules?" MiracleStar asked with perfect calm.

     "If you wish to fight," the Draik began.

     "Then it must be single combat," the Ixi finished.

     "Very well then," Jaix snarled, stepping forwards. "I'll fight you. Should never of done that to my brother."

     Taffin looked on miserably as Jaix stepped forwards, not even bothering to draw his own dagger. The Draik looked at the Ixi and nodded slowly.

     "It comes to this Mharen," he said calmly.

     "Indeed it does Tharen," she replied.

     The Draik backed up onto the bridge, holding his staff at ready. Jaix walked forwards slowly, watching his opponent. But before the combat started, I saw the Ixi leap off the river bank to disappear under the bridge.

     "Hey!" I shouted, running onto the bridge and hanging over the side to see what she was up to.

     I heard an evil snicker, and caught sight of her rearing up and kicking the support beams of the bridge. And then the whole thing collapsed. I fell into the river amid the ruined bridge pieces with a startled yell. I sat in chest deep water, wooden boards floating around me, Jaix nearby looking quite stunned. Tharen, the white Draik, hovered above us, laughing hysterically. The shadow Ixi bounded past us, snickering, and up the opposite bank.

     "Till we meet again," she cried.

     "And a fair day to you!" Tharen added, landing on the Ixi's back.

     With one last satisfied laugh, Mharen took off running towards the nearby forest, the white Draik riding with his staff. I climbed out of the river with a little help by MiracleStar.

     "I hate those two," I snarled, emphasising each word.

     "We were set up," she said calmly.

     "I noticed that," Taffin replied dryly, helping Jaix out of the water.

     "I vote we got after them," I said, glancing at MiracleStar.

     She shook her head.

     "Why? They know the terrain better than us, they're obviously used to setting up ambushes and such, and nothing was lost except for your dignity."

     "I tend to value my dignity," I huffed moodily.

***

The road we were taking wound through a forest. MiracleStar told us that if we veered to the north, we'd encounter Illusen. I for one was quite enamoured with the forest, the shades of green, the smells, the sound of the leaves.

     "Someone's nearby," Skyil whispered to MiracleStar.

     She continued walking, pretending not to notice.

     "Who?" she replied, just as softly.

     "Mharen. Be careful though, she's…."

     I didn't bother to hear what Skyil was about to say. "Cursed Ixi!!" I screeched, and took off after a dark shape.

     The Ixi turned and ran, and I pursued her through the forest, leaping over fallen trees and dodging around bushes.

     "You're going to pay!" I shrieked at her.

     "Only if you catch me, Zafara!" she hollered back.

     We burst into a clearing and I skidded to a stop. The shadow Ixi was no where to be seen.

     "That's odd," I murmured.

     I heard the sound of running behind me, and Jaix, Taffin, and MiracleStar came up to stand beside me.

     "You lost her," Taffin said in disgust.

     "It's not my fault!" I protested.

     "Well, let's head back and find Skyil. I think she was right behind us."

     "Nianso!! It's a trap!" I heard Skyil call.

     "Huh?"

     I started to turn, but there was the sound of a rope being pulled tight, and the ground dissolved beneath us. We were hoisted into the air, caught up tight in a net. I struggled to reach my dagger, but I was pinned beneath someone, and couldn't reach it.

     "Oof, get off me," I grunted.

     Someone stepped on my ear and I yelped.

     "Hang on, I can cut the ropes," Taffin said, standing on my head.

     "I wouldn't do that if I were you," I heard the white Draik say.

     I glanced down at the ground beneath us, upsetting Taffin's balance. MiracleStar yelped as he fell on her. The duo were standing below us, Skyil nearby, eyes wide in fear.

     "Tsk tsk. You shouldn't have followed us," Tharen said.

     "Indeed, it was a mistake," Mharen added.

     "Let them go!" Skyil screeched.

     "Perhaps we will,"

     "And perhaps we won't."

     "Now, about that toll I mentioned earlier," Tharen said quite confidently.

     "Not again…" a new voice groaned from the trees.

     The Draik and Ixi whipped around to stare at the newcomer. It was Illusen, looking quite upset. The two blinked, then stared at the ground, looking quite ashamed.

     "Err."

     "Ahh…."

     "We… were…."

     "Just having a little… erm, prank?"

     Illusen didn't say anything, just stared at the two with her hand on her hips.

     "Fine, we'll let them go," Tharen muttered.

     Mharen walked over to the trees and released a rope, and the net we were in went plummeting down. I tried to flare my wings, but we were entangled too badly. We hit the ground with bone-jarring force. Jaix and Taffin disentangled themselves, moaning from the landing. Finally whoever was on top of me got up, but I just lay there, bruised, battered, and thankful I could even breath now.

     "Sorry Nianso," I heard MiracleStar say. "Are you all right?"

     "No. Just let me die in peace."

     I managed to roll onto my side and lift myself up to a sitting position.

     "Who was on top of me? Felt like they weighed at least a hundred pounds."

     "One hundred and fifteen, actually," MiracleStar confessed sheepishly, "Really sorry bout that."

     "Well, everyone's alive, so no harm done!" I heard the white Draik say brightly.

     I stood up and glared at them. The two looked around with forced grins, realising that everyone in the clearing was glaring at them.

     "Tharen. Mharen. I try to protect you two to some degree, but I can't it all you insist on doing is playing pranks like this," Illusen said sternly.

     The two just hung their heads in shame.

     "Go away… I'll find you later…" she finally sighed, and the two left.

     "Do they have owners?" MiracleStar asked of the faerie.

     "No. Practically no pets in Meridell do. I try to keep an eye on them though. I'm really sorry about all this."

     "Why do you watch over them?" I asked.

     Illusen fixed me with a stern glare.

     "You wouldn't like people poking into your business, so stay out of theirs," she said. "That includes you, Skyil, mind-reader."

     "All right. Whatever. I don't think I want to ever see those two again," MiracleStar said, and started to walk away. "C'mon everyone."

***

I personally think MiracleStar should of tried to have gotten something from Illusen in exchange for Mharen and Tharen's actions, but she seemed quite eager to get away from the faerie. We were out of the forest around late afternoon. The fields stretched before us, no sign of civilisation yet. And the sky was starting to cloud over. MiracleStar didn't say anything, just led us down the road towards the central area of Meridell. It grew dark much earlier than expected. Soon, thunder rumbled ominously, and the first few drops of rain started to fall. MiracleStar pointed, and I caught sight of the crumbling tower, long since abandoned.

     "There," was all she said.

     We veered off the road and cut across the plains toward it. The first few fat drops of rain started to fall, and as we ran through the few trees surrounding it, the storm broke loose. We made it inside just in time.

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Dragon Thieves: Echelon - Part Two

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