Note: The text in brackets represent the voice in his mind.
The rainbow-colored Meerca surveyed the surroundings
from where he was standing on a bluff. Looking back to where he’d come from,
LtKettch could still see Meridell. The flags on the castle walls blew slightly
in the gentle breeze that caressed nature’s face. Kettch’s eyes filled with
tears, as he turned back to his path. Continuing with his trek, Kettch began
to get lost in his memories.
The birds sang softly, a soothing sound that filled the forests outside of
Meridell. The tiny kingdom was perfectly at peace.
LtKettch exited the forest he had been walking
through, whistling a happy tune. He stopped in his tracks as well as his whistling.
There in front of him stood the city gates of Meridell. Restarting his whistling,
he continued through the gates, greeted by the two Draik guards watching over
the gate. When Kettch realized he was finally within the kingdom he had been
searching for, he stopped once more. He closed his eyes, and inhaled the sweet
aroma of life. His ears listened as the wind brought to him tales of things
happening therein: carts rumbling by, people buying and selling goods.
“Life,” the Meerca said after a moment, his
voice full of hushed excitement. “Life is wonderful.”
[You didn’t use to think that you know.] No one
else heard the ‘voice’ that sounded in Kettch’s mind. The voice itself sounded
much like Kettch’s own thoughts. So much so that it had taken Kettch a while
to realize they were not his thoughts, but someone communicating with him.
Yes, Aya. But when one disturbs—
[Disturbs? Hardly! You were looking for any excuse!
And you know, looking back on it, if you had not left then…] The thought voice
cried out. Kettch considered for a moment before answering. Aya—the name of
the ‘voice’ that invaded his thoughts—was probably Kettch’s closest friend.
She, or so he assumed, had been with him for a while now. She would lead him
from place to place, Kettch never knowing where he was going, or what would
happen when he got there.
In any event, this is the place, correct?
Kettch inquired of the voice in his head.
[Yes. Run along and join the community, now.]
“Funny, Aya. Mind telling me why I’m here?”
he mumbled, and got nothing but silence as an answer.
* * *
Meridell was the type of place Kettch expected it to be. A tiny kingdom ruled
in kindness and peace, where the people lived their lives happily. There were
local attractions that seemed to appeal to residents there, such as counting
potatoes, and watching little sea creatures race to the outside of a circle.
Such was the life there, simple, yet exquisite.
“Well, I know it’s not much. It’s got indoor
plumbing and electricity. Otherwise, it’s just a one-room wooden shack,” a Grundo
explained about the room Kettch was interested in renting.
The two of them stepped up to the door, and entered
in. Sunlight streamed through the windows of an otherwise dark and dusty shack.
In one corner a bed with a nightstand was set up. A bookshelf, desk and chair
in another corner, and at the far end (which wasn’t far in this place) a couple
chairs and a coffee table were set.
“Not much, I know. I’ll let you stay for a low
price of three hundred NP a month,” the Grundo continued.
“I’ve been in worse conditions. I’ll take it.”
Kettch set his traveler’s pack down and rummaged through its contents for the
proper amount. The Grundo seemed happy, as he knew he was ripping the poor fellow
off. Such was the way with business, though. He smiled to himself, as Kettch
shook his hand and paid him.
[You could’ve brought him down lower, you know.]
Aya chastised him later, as Kettch unpacked some of his belongings in the room.
“I know. But even so, 300 Neos a month is still
nothing for me.” He stopped what he was doing and looked upwards, an old habit
he had formed when wanting to ‘look straight at’ Aya while speaking. “It's better
than the ground. Not that you care, though. You don’t have to worry about rain,
or cold, or even pain. I still don’t even know if you’re real, or just me going
psychotic.” Kettch took a wrapped bundle out of his pack.
[You never know.] Aya said, before falling silent.
“Hey, Aya. Think it’s safe for me to put this
out? Aya? Hello?”
That’s the problem with talking to voices
in your head, Kettch thought to himself. They start the conversations,
and they end them. I could be talking to her, and find out she’s not even there.
He wasn’t even sure Aya wasn’t still there, silent and listening, or tuned Kettch
out, altogether. Insofar, he hadn’t figured out if she heard everything he thought,
or just when she was paying attention. He had tried to ask her once, but she
hadn’t answered. He set the heavy, spherical bundle back into his pack. It’ll
be safer there.
Having finally unpacking everything that he dared
to, Kettch hopped into the bed. It was comfortable enough, even if some of his
tail hung off the end of it. He drifted off to sleep, and dreamed an odd dream
of rats and angels. The ‘angels’ (which was an odd way to describe these hideous
looking beasts) had appeared to be the enemy, while Kettch fought with rats.
In the end, the rats turned against him and it was these ‘angels’ that saved
* * *
[He’s here,] Aya said the next morning as Kettch woke up.
[He is. You know whom I mean.]
“How? How can he be here? Last we saw him…”
[I don’t know. Be wary.] Aya feel silent as a
knock sounded on the door.
Kettch opened it, and found the last thing he
expected to see standing there. An earth Faerie, with striking red hair, which
contained a few green highlights as well. The freckles on her cheeks seemed
out of place for a Faerie such as herself, but she was no ordinary Faerie either.
“Kettch. It’s good to see you again. May I come
“Certainly.” Kettch removed himself from the
doorframe. Illusen entered the abode and glanced around furtively.
“You still have it, don’t you? It’s still safe
isn’t it?” she asked Kettch in a near-panicked voice.
“Yes, of course I do.” He went to his pack,
and removed the clothed bundle. Illusen visibly relaxed, breathing a sigh of
“You know you can’t let that fall into—“
“Yes, of course I know. You took such lengths
not only to get it out of their reach, not only forcing yourself into exile,
but me as well,” Kettch said silently, it came across harsher than he would’ve
liked, after all, he was in a self-imposed exile—if you could call it that—long
before Illusen came.
“I did what was needed.”
“I know.” The two stood in silence a moment
longer, recalling their past.
[Apologize,] Aya urged Kettch. He ignored the
fact she’d said anything, even though he knew he should.
“Well, Kettch. I need to get going. All those
pets helping me in quests will be wondering where I am.” Illusen headed towards
“Illusen, wait. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault,”
Kettch called out. She stopped at the doorframe, smiled at him, and left.
[Good boy.] Once more, Kettch ignored her and
left his dwelling.
* * *
Kettch had roamed around Meridell all day, getting acquainted with the kingdom
and what it was like -- especially since he had no clue how long he’d be there.
Trying to immerse in the ways of the realm hadn’t been too difficult, he rather
enjoyed counting potatoes and Turdle races. He had, in fact, bet heavily on
Nutty for a few races (even winning two of them) before seeing another familiar
“LtKettch the Meerca. What a pleasant surprise,”
a voice behind Kettch said. The voice was low, and yet a pleasure to listen
to. A voice that could be like honey to the ears, containing much praise or
like vinegar, full of malice, without shifting tone at all.
“Ashiel.” Kettch turned around to see he was
right. A Nimmo shaded with red stood behind him. What surprised Kettch was the
grin on his face, and the fact he was wearing the armor of a Meridell knight.
“I haven’t seen you since I left the training school.”
Ashiel’s grin widened. “You remember! Then again,
I doubt you could forget me. Oh, don’t worry; I’ve matured since we both left
Ryshu’s academy there.” Kettch and Ashiel had both been disciples of Ryshu.
Neither one extraordinary students; Ashiel had harbored a deep rivalry with
Kettch since the beginning. They had not been enemies, but never friends.
“What brought you here, Ashiel?”
“I should ask you the same. Both answers are
probably the same: traveling. I just decided to end my travels here.” He chuckled
some. “I’ve done quite well for myself so far. You’re looking at Sir
Ashiel, a knight in Meridell’s army. Which is why I am here.” Ashiel’s face
suddenly lost all sense of mirth and turned into a mask of seriousness.
“Which would be…?”
“We need more soldiers in the army. One such
as yourself… we need you, Kettch. There’s a coming war, and we need all the
good soldiers we can get.”
“A war? Here? I see no signs of it.”
“That’s because you, my friend, aren’t in the
army. You think we’d tell just anyone? No, Kettch. I’m only telling you so that
you’ll come willingly. We need you.”
[Join, Kettch.] Aya spoke softly in Kettch’s
I guess this is why I’m here, isn’t it?
He replied to Aya, and spoke aloud, “Yes, I’ll join.”
“Very good!” Ashiel’s grin spread back over
his smooth face. “Come with me. The king will wish to meet you.”
* * *
“A former classmate of Ashiel? Well then, my young Meerca lad, you’re quite
welcome to join our ranks.” A jolly King Skarl laughed out and smacked Kettch
on the back. “If you’re half as good as Ashiel, here, you’ll do just fine.”
Kettch glanced over to where Ashiel was standing, and saw him stand straighter
at the praise.
“That is too kind, sir. Although, your highness,
if memory recalls, I am roughly Ashiel’s equal in strength.” Kettch glanced
back over to catch a dark glare coming from Ashiel’s face.
[You fool. Don’t you know when to keep your mouth
shut?] Aya interjected. Kettch had to stop a smile from spreading across his
face. He had intended to make that fact known. [Seems the rivalry wasn’t unjustified,
“Ashiel’s equal, you say? Ashiel, what say you
in this matter.” The king turned to his prize knight, who was clenching his
teeth at the moment.
“Kettch is very good, sire. I wouldn’t go as
“Get on with it!” King Skarl snapped.
“He’s near my strength, I’d say,” Ashiel said
rather hushed. His fiery gaze darted back to Kettch, whom had his eyes closed
and body turned downwards in humbleness.
“If that’s so, Kettch, I appoint you knight
this very instant. We don’t have the time it takes to go through your period
of service.” King Skarl rose to his feet. “Ashiel, if you would?” Skarl held
out his hands, while Ashiel grudgingly presented his sword to the King. Kettch
kneeled down as far as his Meerca body would allow. “I dub you a knight in the
order of Meridell, Sir LtKettch.”
“T’is an honor, sire. I shall be sure not to
fail the office.” Kettch rose up once more. A pair of servants appeared and
led Kettch to the armory, where he would receive his equipment. Ashiel’s eyes
glared fiery hatred at Kettch as he left.
To be continued…