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Valrigard's Travels: Freedom - Part 3


by mutagens

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Chapter 3: Departure

     “I’m glad you called me in.”

     Illusen’s voice was like a gentle breeze gliding through the forest. It calmed Valrigard just as effectively as the rustling of leaves.

     The same couldn’t be said for Jaren, who still looked worried.

     “And you’re sure that soup will cure him?” He asked for the thousandth time that day.

     Illusen smiled gently. “I am sure, young Lupe. Your newly freed friend is just suffering from nutrient deficiency and exhaustion. Some hearty broth and rest will make him right as rain in a few days.” Her green, leaf-like wings glittered faintly in the orange glow of the rays of sunset that poured through the window next to Valrigard’s bed. She tucked a brown and green strand of hair behind her pointed Faerie ears before turning away from Jeran and looking over Valrigard for the thousandth time that day.

     Valrigard was certain that at this point, she was doing it to help ease Jeran’s fears rather than actually look for any changes in the Draik’s weakened condition. He helped by sitting as still as possible as she checked his eyes, temperature, mouth, and wings.

     “Yes, he is already looking much better,” Illusen said, nodding and smiling.

     Jeran still seemed unconvinced, so Valrigard decided to chime in: “It’s true, Jeran. I’m already starting to feel better.”

     For a moment, the Lupe looked like he was about to protest, but then his shoulders slumped in defeat as he sighed. “Alright, alright. But can you blame me for worrying? Valrigard had a fever and could hardly eat for two days!” The Lupe huffed. “Anyone would be fretful even after the Earth Faerie herself treated him...”

     Illusen giggled as Valrigard smiled. “You really are an older brother, Jeran,” the Draik said. His smile then morphed into a mischievous grin. “Or a mother Wibreth.”

     Jeran blushed under his fur and turned away to hide his embarrassment. “Hmph.”

     As if on queue, a short Yellow Aisha in a grey skirt and white button-up suddenly burst into the room. “Illusen!” she cried out, her round red glasses threatening to slide off her nose after the sudden rush of movement. “I knew I’d find you eventually. It’s so rare that you visit- Oh!” She clapped one paw to her mouth as she finally spotted Valrigard from his spot in the bed beyond Illusen. “You’re treating someone! I’m sorry!”

     Valrigard chuckled. “It’s alright.”

     Jeran didn’t remove his paw from its new home on his face as he gestured with the other towards the Aisha. “Valrigard, meet my younger sister, Lisha.”

     The Draik gave a little wave that was returned enthusiastically by the young Aisha.

     She then paused mid-wave. “Wait, Valrigard?” Her jaw dropped. “The Valrigard?” Lisha’s expression shifted from excitement to sadness and empathy. It reminded Valrigard of the look Jeran had given him when he had met with the Draik in the dungeons. “I... I’m so sorry. For bursting in and for what had happened to you.” She clutched her paws in front of her. “I was in Meridell when you were arrested, and I didn’t even think to look into it...” Her longer set of ears drooped down like wilted flowers.

     Moved by her kindness, Valrigard waved a claw to dismiss any misconceptions. “It’s alright. It’s not your fault.” He smiled at her reassuringly. “I’m just glad the truth came to light in the end.”

     Lisha gently smiled back. “Me too.”

     Illusen chuckled softly, the noise sounding similar to the babbling of a brook. “Lisha,” she said, causing the Aisha to look up at her. “Once Valrigard feels better, he’s going to be travelling around Neopia to celebrate his newfound freedom. Do you have any suggestions on where he could go?”

     Lisha brightened up immediately. “That’s so exciting!” She then pressed one paw to her chin and wrinkled her brow, thinking deeply. “There’s so many fantastic places in Neopia that are detailed in the castle library’s books. Hmm...” She rubbed her chin. “Well, if you want to stay local first, Brightvalle’s right nearby. But it’s not that different from Meridell.”

     Jeran was only partially successful in suppressing a snort of laughter. “Don’t let the kings hear you say that, Lisha.” He said, ruffling the fur on the top of her head.

     She shoved his paw off, sticking her tongue out at him with a grin.

     Valrigard chuckled at the siblings, then quickly got lost in thought. Did he want to stay nearby Meridell first, or would someplace exotic and far away be a better beginning to his travels?

     As if hearing his thoughts, Lisha commented, “If you want to go far, then you’ll definitely want to head to Shenkuu. That’s as far away from Meridell as you can get, and I’ve read they have some fantastic scenery there.”

     Valrigard nodded, but then realised he had never heard of a place called Shenkuu. That fact alone made it sound tempting.

     Lisha suddenly grew quiet, rubbing her arm with one paw. “As far as nearby places, well...” She paused. “You, uh, do know what happened with Faerieland, right?”

     Valrigard’s thoughts stopped. “What?”

     Lisha clenched her teeth and inhaled sharply. “Oof. Well, through a series of events, it kind of... Got knocked out of the sky.”

     Valrigard’s stomach grew cold. “...What?”

     Lisha raised her paws up in front of her to look reassuring. “Don’t worry! Everyone made it through okay, and the Faeries have settled into their now permanent location. And it is very beautiful there!”

     Valrigard laid his head back on his pillow with a sigh. There was so much that he had missed out on. So much new history he had to learn. He silently cursed the guards for leaving him so very, very far out of the loop. Yet another thing in the dungeons Jeran will undoubtedly begin to fix as soon as Valrigard recovered.

     Valrigard stared at the ceiling for a moment before realising the room was silent. He glanced over to see his three new friends looking at him with worry in their eyes.

     “Oh,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m alright. It’s still just a lot to process.”

     Illusen and Jeran nodded while Lisha looked thoughtful again.

     Jeran gave her a quizzical look. “Neopoint for your thoughts, sister?”

     “Well... I was just thinking. Valrigard’s going to be in bed for at least a day or two, seeing how rough he looks. So... I could get him up to speed on the latest history. After all, not only was I around for all of it, I also know all the library’s history books like the back of my paw.” She jabbed a thumb at her chest, posing confidently.

     Jeran grinned. “That’s a great idea.” He reached out towards Lisha’s head again, and she prepared for another ruffling of her fur, but instead, she was given a kind pat. “Thank you, Lisha. That’s very kind of you.”

     Lisha beamed.

     Illusen gave another giggle, her smile as warm as a sunbeam. “Well, for now, the sun is setting, and Valrigard needs to get some sleep.” She retrieved Valrigard’s now empty soup bowl with one hand and began gently ushering the two siblings out of the room with the other. “Come on, you two.”

     Jeran’s worry returned to his eyes, and he resisted against the Faerie’s guiding hand just enough to get one last word to Valrigard: “Call if you need anything, alright?”

     Valrigard laughed a hoarse but hearty laugh. “I will, my friend. Thank you.”

     Jeran smiled as Illusen shut the door to Valrigard’s room, and the Draik was finally alone with his thoughts. Where did he want to travel first?

     The possibilities swirled in his head like leaves in the wind before sleep quieted his mind.

     * * *

     “Valrigard!” Jeran’s voice called out as he dashed towards the Draik .

     It had been two days since Illusen visited to treat Valrigard, and Lisha had stayed true to her word and filled Valrigard’s head with the history and discoveries that the Draik had missed since his imprisonment. He had learned all about the ongoing restoration of Qasala, the return of Dr. Sloth, Xandra’s betrayal, and countless other things.

     Thanks to the Earth Faerie’s remedies, Valrigard had also made a swift recovery during the time of his equally swift education. He was feeling better than he had in, well, years. While his scales would never be as deep a blue as they were before the dungeon, they gleamed in the sunlight that poured in from the open gate of Meridell Castle.

     He hoisted his backpack over his shoulder again, testing its weight as Jeran stood panting before him. “Jeran,” Valrigard said, hiding a laugh. “I’m not going to run off at any moment. There’s no need to rush.”

     Jeran grinned sheepishly. “I know, but Lisha was really insistent that I give you this right away.” The Lupe presented a small leatherbound book with no title to Valrigard.

     Valrigard took it, puzzled at its blank cover, and then opened the book to flip through the pages. They were as blank as the outside. He gave his friend a quizzical look.

     Jeran laughed at the Draik’s puzzled expression. “She says it’s a journal.” He then presented a quill pen that looked like it had been freshly dipped in ink. “To record your experiences. That quill is magical, by the way. Specially enchanted by Lisha herself to never run out of ink and never bleed onto the paper.” He couldn’t help but look a little proud of his younger sister. “And that she really wishes she could have been here to see you off,” he added.

     Valrigard carefully took the quill pen, both amazed by the magic and deeply moved by the gift. He blinked away a tear. “Tell her thank you, and that I hope her magic exam goes well today.”

     Jeran nodded with a smile. “I will. Are you ready to head off and fully embrace your freedom?”

     Valrigard shrugged his bag off his shoulders and looked over its contents for the fifth time. Food, check. Canteen with water, check. Spare clothes, check. Bedroll, check. Rope with grappling hook, check. Sword at my side?

     Valrigard looked down at the jagged blade tucked into his belt. Check.

     He placed the journal and quill pen inside the bag. Journal and magic pen, check. He smiled.

     “I believe I’m finally ready to go,” he told Jeran.

     Jeran smiled back, but there was sadness in his eyes. “I’ll miss you, old friend.” He stretched his arms out to the sides.

     This time, Valrigard didn’t blink away the tears at the corners of his eyes as he embraced Jeran. “I’ll be back, don’t worry.”

     Jeran laughed. “You should know at this point that asking me not to worry is like asking Lisha not to cast magic, right?”

     Valrigard joined the Lupe’s laughter, pulling out of the hug to look Jeran in the face. “You tell Lisha that she’s going to get told all about my adventures when I come back, okay?” Valrigard grinned.

     Jeran laughed even louder. “You say that like it’ll be revenge for her long-winded lessons, but you know she’ll love every minute of it!”

     Valrigard chuckled. “I know, I know.” He pulled his pack onto his back and gave one last look around the stone inside of Meridell Castle. This place had been his home for so many years, and his prison for so many more. It felt strange leaving it. Inside his heart was the feeling of sadness that one gets when leaving home on their own for the first time, but mixed with that was the giddy excitement of getting to go on a vacation to a far-off place.

     The emotions swirled within Valrigard as he unfurled his wings in the sun for the first time in a very, very long time.

     “I’ll see you later, friend,” he told Jeran as his wings began to kick up dust.

     “See you later, Valrigard the Free,” Jeran whispered back.

     Valrigard took off into the bright blue sky with freedom in his heart.

     The End.

     Dedicated to the Neopets community. You will always make my heart soar.

 
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Other Episodes


» Valrigard's Travels: Freedom
» Valrigard's Travels: Freedom - Part 2



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