Firiden’s home was nothing much, as Jeran expected. It
was a simple home constructed in the very limbs of the trees above him. The
Lupe was extremely impressed that an Ixi with hooves for feet could manage to
get around in a tree, but Firiden shrugged and said that it honestly was nothing
special. “Hey, if you can get on by those two scrawny paws, doesn’t mean I can’t
get by on two hooves,” the Ixi nonchalantly replied. With the promise of a home
and a friend, Jeran’s adventure seemed to unfold in front of him, the entire
world becoming the reality for his dreams. As Jeran sat in the hammock in the
small room Firiden have gave him, he peered up at the sky through the hole in
the ceiling. He felt a sense of peace inside of him. He had lost so many things,
but perhaps this would make up for them… one day…
The days melded into weeks, then months, then
years. At first the pang of time weighted on Jeran’s heart horribly, a day not
going by when he didn’t think of his friends, family and mostly Lisha. But soon
her face became less and less of a painful figure with his mind becoming more
engrossed with the endless possibilities that his new world produced.
However, the first and foremost within Jeran’s
life was his training.
Training, as Firiden saw it, was the most important
thing for the young Lupe. Firiden could see the raw potential in Jeran’s abilities
and wanted to make sure, more than anything, that he could harness it. Day in
and day out training was what Jeran did morning, noon, and sometimes through
the night (if Firiden was not happy with his performance during the day). Though
during training Firiden was one of the strictest persons Jeran had ever known,
he could still see the kindness which lived within the Ixi’s heart. When he
wasn’t training Jeran, Firiden was the perfect friend and confidant. To Jeran
he seemed to be the sibling which he had lost in his old world; the big brother
that he himself had never had. The years passed, one by one, and they showed
as Jeran progressed. His knobby knees and feet that were always mocked in school
slowly became thick and powerful as his agility surpassed anything that he was
once able to do. Even his body was starting to improve, much to Jeran’s dismay
due to the constant teasing of Firiden.
But beyond his looks Firiden began to notice
Jeran’s fighting abilities. Sooner than he ever expected Jeran was able to easily
beat him in any battle, as well as any lone bandits which resulted in their
comeuppance from the hands of the skillful Lupe.
Yes, the days were peaceful for Jeran and he
loved them. Meridell was a paradise to him, and he wasn’t sure what he entirely
did to deserve such a wonderful thing, but he decided not to tempt his fate
and dwelled no more on it.
Yet as perfect as his life was, Jeran was not
Though Firiden and Jeran could survive quite
well in the forest, times did call for them to eventually drift into Meridell
for some sort of supplies. While Firiden would angrily barter with a shopkeeper
for a cheaper price on some marrows, Jeran’s eyes would always travel towards
the castle that he had explored by accident long ago. He thought of how it could
have been different, how he could have been one of the knights onto of the castle’s
stately pillars and towers, protecting the village below. “To have everything
and still want one thing…” Jeran mumbled to himself as he stared at the castle
in a forlorn manner. The sound of the crowds around him died as Jeran stared
at the castle through the afternoon and into the silent hours of dusk. He watched
as many of the guards left their posts, yawning and stretching as they longed
to go home, yet Jeran sat steadfast… wishing… hoping…
The Lupe didn’t even bother to turn around at
the crunch of grass behind him. Quietly Firiden traipsed up to Jeran, noting
his gaze and eyeing it with boredom. “Fir, how do you become a knight?” Jeran
asked his friend tactfully, or in what he thought was a tactful manner. The
Ixi gave a disinterested shrug and sat down, noisily biting into the Loveberry
that he had just bought.
“Hrmp, you probably just have to promise to
kiss that slimy Skarl’s feet. Forget it Jeran, you shouldn’t waste your skill
with those idiots. They wouldn’t appreciate you. Probably make you guard the
royal bathroom or something,” Firiden nodded, heading back into the forest with
the bag of purchases on his back. Jeran followed his friend, and though his
eyes were torn away from the castle, his thoughts were not. It didn’t matter
to him if he was appreciated or not. To simply be there would be enough for
It was under that dying sun that he swore to
become a knight, no matter what it took. Jeran voiced the idea to Firiden, who
gave an amused laugh at the idea, playfully ruffling Jeran’s fur. “Jer, when
you become a knight, then I’ll become a princess!” He joked, the two disappearing
into the forest.
And so the routine continued for many more months,
training and living as the two had always done. Jeran’s mind continued to drift
to the beautiful white castle in the meadow. In his dreams he always saw himself
on the highest tower, wearing a suit of amour made out of a pure gold that glinted
in the sunlight. Down below the villagers milled about, not worrying about anything
for Jeran was there to protect them. A satisfied smile kept over the Lupe’s
muzzle as he delved into his fantasies, but was instantly broken with the rustling
of leaves down on the ground.
“Firiden? No… he’s out getting water…” Jeran
whispered as he jumped off the tree limb he was resting on. He looked around
the hut, trying to see if his has friend returned, yet saw nothing. He peered
over the balcony of the tree house into a clearing below where the crunching
leave sounds where coming from, voices silently creeping into the Lupe’s ears.
“My king, I don’t think this path was best to—,”
“Nonsense! I took this path many times as a
child. I’m sure of its safety! Now continue on your way or else we shall be
late for the banquet!” The voice roared. Jeran wondered if his ears were playing
tricks on him. That voice…it couldn’t be…
But it was.
Not more than a few feet below the tree house
a very irritable King Skarl poked his head out of his royal carriage, glowering
at the nervous guards about him. Skarl did not seem to understand their panic
instead ordering the group to move on. The guards, however, seemed intent on
staying right where they were. From above Jeran saw the few beads of sweat rolling
off their faces, while the angry king grumbled. “I must arrive at the palace
in thirty minutes for my post-breakfast-mid-lunch-pre-dinner meal! Now as I
have said once I shall say again this path is—,”
THWOCK! The King’s tirade was cut short as an
arrow sailed through the sky and implanted itself firmly in the king’s carriage.
The knights begin to panic, hurriedly looking about for the assailant, but it
was too late for them to properly counter. The shadowy figures charged out of
the brush, their paws and fists grasping onto clubs and swords. One by one the
guards fell, their small forms helpless against the hulking masses, as they
desperately tried to defend their king.
Above it all Jeran watched with horror. He could
feel a force compelling him to join the fray. It was almost as if an innate
knightly-sense was controlling his movements for, before Jeran could honestly
realize that he was in control of his own movements, he was jumping from branch
to branch and crashing down upon the first creature that was in his path.
The large pet crashed to the ground with a disturbing
thud, alerting the others to Jeran’s presence. Slowly they turned from the King’s
carriage towards Jeran, and it was at that time he noticed each of their faces:
a Lupe glared back at him, a patch over his eye, a buzz leered down at him with
a large portion of his face scarred, a manacle Wocky glared at him with anger.
Each of these things flashed in Jeran’s mind, but quickly faded as the one-eyed
Lupe lunged at him. Deftly, Jeran dodged the enemy and parried a blow from the
buzz. A thrust here and a jab there, Jeran moved with grace and force towards
the villains, never giving and inch and fighting as if this battle had something
more than his welfare at stake.
The creatures themselves were shocked, how could
this tiny Lupe beat them as badly as he did? Strong as they were, their craven
spirits did not will them to fight any longer as they slipped back into the
shadowing each shooting a look of intense loathing at Jeran.
Jeran watched after them for a long while, his
chest heaving from the effort. Sadly he looked around at the knights strewn
about, wondering how intense their injuries were. He bent down to the nearest
knight and looked at him with remorse.
“He shall be fine, he’s had worse injuries than
this,” a voice noted from behind Jeran. The Lupe jumped, completely forgetting
the fact that he was not alone in the clearing. King Skarl glanced over at Jeran,
a thoughtful smirk across his face while Jeran flattened himself into a respectful
“Your majesty!” Jeran yelled, but the King waved
his claw in an annoyed manner at Jeran.
“Pah, don’t bother with the formalities, rather
pointless out here, aren’t they?” Skarl laughed. He looked around at the fallen
guards as well as the bushes.
“We should get going before they come back… and
so that I may arrive back to the castle in time to receive my meal,” the King
noted. Jeran gave an obedient nod and began to scoop the guards one by one into
the carriage, each of them stirring slightly yet remaining unconscious.
Though Jeran continued to diligently put the
faithful knights into the carriage, every now and then he would steal a furtive
look at the king, who seemed to be glancing in a direction complete opposite
from his. When Skarl, however, noticed Jeran’s glance, the Lupe quickly threw
his eyes to the ground, embarrassed. “You, Lupe, what is your name?” Skarl asked
rather informally. Jeran jumped back in surprise. Here he was, a common Lupe,
being addresses by the king of Meridell himself! It took a few seconds for Jeran
to be able to simply blink properly.
“J—Jeran sir,” he mumbled, still trying not to
look the king in the eye. Skarl gave a booming laugh and clapped a large clawed
hand onto Jeran’s shoulder in a friendly gesture.
“Well Jeran, I must thank you for your help!
Though I’m sure I could have taken them on myself, your help was a wonderful
thing!” the king roared, his voice scaring off a few birds in the trees. “However,
I must ask of you a favor…”
A favor? From the king? Jeran’s head buzzed,
it felt almost like he was dreaming! All through his life he dreamed of things
which could never be; princes and princesses, kings and queens… and yet here
was the king himself, asking something from Jeran!
“O-of course, sir! A-anything!” he stammered,
staring intently at the king. Skarl pointed a massive claw at the two saddled
Unis which were hooked up to the carriage, draped in the royal Meridell seal,
the goal foil glinting in the small shafts of light.
“I would enjoy it Jeran, if you could accompany
me back to the kingdom. You never know what might pop up. I daresay that you
seem like you can take those brutes on if they dare to come back again,” the
King muttered darkly looking back at the dark bushes. Jeran’s muzzle broke into
a smile as he bowed deeply.
“I’d be honored, your majesty!”
It was an odd sight for anyone who would see it. The king of Meridell and a
scruffy blue Lupe, riding atop the royal steeds carrying a carriage filled with
unconscious knights. The pair had a few laughs upon the oddity of the ordeal,
but continued on their way rather uneventfully, though every small ruffle and
gust of wind caused them to warily grasp at their weapons.
“So where have you trained, lad? Your skills
were simply amazing, brings me back to my days when I could fight like that…
not that I still can’t,” the King said quickly, trying to save himself.
Jeran smiled at the kind comment, slowly growing
more and more relaxed with the rhythmic clopping of the Uni and the soft squeaking
of the carriage behind him. “A friend of mine has trained me for a long time
now… probably over eleven years… he’s a hard teacher but I must say he teaches
very well,” Jeran added.
Skarl gave a thoughtful nod at this and looked
up at the clear blue sky above him. “Yes, the hardest situations always make
for the best teachers, remember that Jeran. The harder something is, the more
likely that you will grow from it,” the King advised.
“You always learn from hardships,” the Lupe said
in a rather dejected manner, his thoughts floating again to his first days in
this strange land and his sister… wherever she was.
“You sound as if you know of hardships,” Skarl
inquired firmly, yet gently. He did not prod, instead leaving it open for Jeran
to respond if he so chose to. Jeran heaved a sigh, gently urging his steed on
while he stared off into the distance.
“I had to leave my home when I was younger. I
had to find a place here… but it’s hard to be in a place when you have no idea
if you belong or not…” Jeran mused. Skarl made no more thought to intrude on
the matter, instead opting to muse on the rather interesting words which the
young Lupe has proposed. The two continued to ride in a conformable silence,
saying nothing but still feeling at ease in each other’s company. Soon the trees
began to thin out as the dirt surrounding them faded into a lush grass carpet.
Jeran smiled as the wind from the valley caressed his face and welcomed the
two into the valley where the castle merrily awaited the king’s return.
“Ahh, made it out of the forest alive! Always
was an adventure when I was younger, excellent to see that it still is!” the
monarch boomed while the Unis trampled on. Jeran gave a supportive smile and
laughed as well, finding the king’s comments generally entertaining.
Slowly they came upon the main road before the
castle, one which also happened to drive straight through the heavily crowded
market place. At this time of the day the market was at its busiest point, the
stalls full of buyers and sellers alike. Jeran did not think that it was the
best idea of go traipsing through the market, however Skarl simply ushered his
Uni on, leaving Jeran no chance but to follow.
A whisper broke out among the market place as
the carriage came closer within their sights. The pets all began to wonder who
in such a magnificent carriage would come to see them! The crowd began to split
like a giant sea, their eyes squinting at the carriage until they could make
out a familiar face saddled upon the Uni. Cheering and waving the Neopets welcomed
the king, viewing such a close encounter with their sovereign as a wondrous
“Open the gates! The king is coming!” Ahead of
the small train a guard stationed at the end of the marketplace began to flit
his wings furiously as he took off towards the castle. The cry echoed off the
white walls and towards the gatekeeper, who immediately began to raise the gates
for the cheered duo. Jeran continued to usher his Uni towards the castle, but
couldn’t help but give one last wave towards a fellow Meridellian before the
gates clanked down. It was then that the reality of it all set in as Jeran peered,
awe inspired, at the castle walls. He had dreams of setting foot beyond the
white barrier and here he was and yet… yet he didn’t know what to do. The guards
hurried back and forth over the stone floor, their armor glinting in the light,
while the gentle babble of excitement thrived through the air. The words of
everyone seemed so far away as Jeran stared at his dream, coming back to reality
only when a strong hand grasped him on the shoulder.
“Jeran, come join us for a feast in your honor!
No come, come! Don’t be shy!” the king urged as Jeran gently tried to break
away, shaking his head.
“I-I thank you sir, but I really do need to be
getting back home. I’m afraid that if I miss my training today my friend will
be quite sore with me!” Jeran bowed humbly.
The king looked disappointed at this, but gave
an understanding nod at Jeran before extending his ring-clad claw. “Yes yes,
understandable, of course… but please, Jeran, do not feel like you are a stranger
in this castle! You are always welcome here, let that be known!” The king suddenly
turned to all of the guards around, who quickly stopped and stared. The two
friends gave a final handshake before the doors opened up, leading into the
bustling market. Jeran cast a final look back at the smiling king before trotting
away from the castle, his heart still racing. He was a friend of the king? It
was… amazing! Never in his life would he think that his dreams could become
a reality, it was just too much!
Quickly though his happy thoughts stopped as
a sign caught his eye. Puzzled, he walked back to the notice board upon which
notices where hastily posted by both guards and peasants alike. Jeran peered
at a wanted poster, his eyes round and confused. “Impossible,” Jeran whispered,
ripping the poster off the sign, for staring back at him was none other than
the eyes Buzz from earlier. The sign was a simple wanted poster in all respects,
offering a 100,000 Neopoint reward for the capture of the aforementioned Buzz.
However the odd thing was that scribbled across the poster was the word ‘captured’
in a large, red scrawl. Jeran madly ripped through the frivolous posters of
cheap Juppie Cheese and jugs of Braku Berry Juice to find more wanted posters,
identifying each face with one he saw in the clearing. And just as the first
poster, all of them carried the same red note of capture… Jeran stared at the
signs for a few minutes, his mind reeling at this before stuffing the signs
in his jacket and running back towards his home.
To be continued...