Jeran quickly learned about city life. The hustle and bustle,
the noise and the hurry. It was all so different from the peaceful meadows and
farms of Meridell. He learned what caused the fizz in Neocola, what pizza was,
and what sorts of toys existed in Neopia Central. He was introduced to Neopia
Central petpets when a Doglefox ran off with his sword. But nothing seemed to
trigger his memory. So much he had forgotten! And one thing in particular.
"Hillary, what are those long green poles with
those green and white rectangles on them? They look like trees."
"Those are street signs, Jeran. See? That one
says that we are on Rainbow Lane."
"Say? It doesn't 'say' anything. I didn't hear
"It's written in white letters, see?"
"You mean those squiggly things?"
Hillary paused in horror. "Squiggly things?
Those 'squiggly things' are letters! Letters make words!" She looked into her
Lupe's eyes, so deep. They held so much pain and loss. "You've forgotten more
than I think you've forgotten."
"And you cannot read?"
"What is 'read'?"
"They had no books in Meridell at all?"
"If books are those things with pictures in
the windows of stores, no."
"What else don't you remember?"
"Almost everything about this place. This strange
place called home."
"Well, we should at least teach you how to read."
So, Hillary and Chuck began giving Jeran reading
lessons. He was a steady learner and dedicated to his schooling. He began to
read children's books, slowly, one by one. Then he tackled more challenging
books. By the end of the month, he was reading Cybunny Down with ease.
Meanwhile, Lisha had been "borrowing" Jeran's
great sword during the reading lessons. She began to practice with it in the
backyard, slicing branches off of a tree. "I want to be a great knight. I want
to be a great knight." She recited to herself with each sword stroke.
On the evening of the last day of the month,
Jeran was sitting on the Tiger Sofa, reading All About Air Faeries aloud with
Hillary. A hideous purple face peered through the window. "Look at our noble
knight-prince." It snickered. "Hardly the tough guy he once was. Reading books
while his sissy is out doing the sword swinging. This ought to be a piece of
"Cake, Chief?" said another voice, this one
more high-pitched. "I like cake."
The first voice groaned. "I mean capturing Jeran
will be easier! Let's see what the people of Meridell will do when their beloved
Prince Jeran Borodere is gone."
* * *
Early the next morning…
"I'm going to the Bakery to get some more bread!"
called Hillary. The human teenager stepped out the door and… fell over a tripwire
and into a carefully laid trap! A net, made almost invisible by the leaves and
dirt clinging to it was there to meet her when she fell. Then, she found herself
being hauled up onto the roof by the most repulsive of creatures. It was a Skeith
painted Darigan with a ragged ear. A long scar ran across his face, from his
left eye to his chin. His hair was clumped and cut at crazy angles, as if it
had been devoured by a lawnmower.
"You didn't catch the Lupe-prince, Chief," said
a Pteri at his side. The Pteri was remarkably small, but he looked agile, like
he could fly circles around the toughest battler and claw them into submission.
"Drat, I didn't," the Skeith muttered. "But
I think I can use this girl."
Cackling evilly, the Skeith gagged and bound
Hillary and flew her down from the roof. "Come out, Prince Jeran!"
Jeran, Lisha and Chuck peered out the window.
Lisha's heart was racing with fright. They had captured Hillary! Rage seethed
through every vein in her body. The fright was forgotten, and the Aisha reached
for her Wand of Nova.
Chuck was nearly in tears! He was a child, adopted
from the pound. He had already lost one owner when she was forced to delete
her account. Now he was going to lose another. It was too much for a youth.
Jeran's strategist brain was already trying
to come up with ways to free Hillary. "What do you want?" he called out the
"Exit your home unarmed, Lupe, and we'll set
the girl free. Then, you'll let us tie and gag you in her place."
The Skeith cackled menacingly. Without their
hero Jeran, Meridell would be as good as gone. That foolish king loved his son
and would gladly give up his kingdom for the life of a single Lupe. Then, what
was left of Darigan's forces would have their revenge on Meridell.
Jeran started to put down his sword. Then, he
picked it up again. "I can't let myself be captured. I'm a warrior and a prince.
My people may still need me."
Chuck was silent. This was Jeran's decision.
He couldn't choose between his owner and his brother. But Lisha spoke out. "Jeran,
you'll have to turn yourself in."
"What?" Jeran gave his sister a look. It wasn't
angry or frightened or indignant. It was… puzzled.
"They can put an end to Hillary right here and
now," Lisha said. "But if you're their prisoner, they'll have to keep you alive
to use as a bargaining chip."
"But I refuse to be used as a bargaining chip!
I'll put all of Meridell in danger!"
"You're tough, Jeran. You could find a way out
of those ropes and gags before it happens."
"And what if I don't? You'll lose a brother
and a prince. Or worse, I might be spared and Meridell might be lost instead.
Is that what you want?"
"So you'll sacrifice our owner and parent to
save your own fur. Is that what you want?"
"I want Hillary!" Chuck wailed. "I want Prince
Jeran and Hillary!"
Rage boiled in Jeran's blood. He cuffed the
child gently over the head. "You can't have everything you want, kid!"
"WAHH! Prince Jeran hit me."
Lisha hugged the young Kyrii. "It's okay. Lisha
and Jeran will work this out. We can do anything together. In the meantime,
why don't you play with your toys in your room?"
"Okay." The Kyrii child left, somewhat more
When Chuck was out of hearing range, Lisha struck
Jeran across the cheek. "What do you think you're doing, hitting a child?"
"He shouldn't be raising a racket and calling
the neighbors' attention! If someone decides to help, the Skeith will finish
Hillary off and make a run for it!"
"Isn't that the same thing they'll do if you
don't turn yourself in?"
"Aisha, Lupe, I'm getting restless. Get out
here!" the Skeith sniggered. "Fools."
Lisha's eyes met Jeran's in a blaze of rage
and passion. "If you don't go out there, it just won't be you and me losing
an owner. It'll be Chuck too -- a child, a victim of circumstances. Do you want
to put him in the pound again, Jeran? Do you?"
"I'm still not going out there."
"Then I will." Lisha threw her Wand of Nova
to the floor, where it clattered against the leg of a table. Then, paws raised
in the air as a sign of surrender, she walked out. Slowly, step by step, towards
To be continued...