The years passed peacefully under Darigan's reign.
Master Vex became known as "the kind warden," and he and Galgarrath became powerful
figures in society. With considerable effort, Lord Darigan got used to not trusting
General Kass and the lovely Tara. He became better friends with the destructive
Haskol, and Ridella began to fill the hole in his heart that the loss of his
father and two friends had created. Demona's Orb became a shadow that he tried
to ignore in the wonderful lives that his people were leading. Life had become
normal, when the Faerie decided to wreck things again.
* * *
Darigan woke up suddenly in the night. Unsure of why he had woken, he listened
carefully for anything that seemed out of the ordinary.
Then he heard a faint voice. "Now the whole castle's
"You try falling off a wall!" and angry voice
Quietly, Darigan opened the window. He could
see several figures dropping into the courtyard. He gasped.
Grabbing his cloak, he hurried into the hall,
and went outside.
"You bungler!" growled a Gelert to a Kacheek
as they saw him approach.
A white Kougra stepped forward. "I know this
looks odd, young Korbat, but this is not what it seems. I wish to speak with
the ruler of this fair land."
"That would be me."
"Oh! Err…we were hoping to talk to you…and…we
were instructed to come here and see you as soon as possible…so we were climbing
over the wall…" He trailed off.
"Wouldn't your leader understand if you waited
The Kougra sighed. "Our leaders…well they can
be nasty." He shivered. "It is rather chilly out here. Perhaps you and I can
Darigan hesitated, looking at the others.
"I'll watch them," said Ridella, emerging from
the bushes, dressed for battle. "I heard noises, and decided to check it out."
She saluted as he walked off with the Kougra.
* * *
They sat down in a library inside of the castle. The Kougra seemed to have
a perpetual smirk.
"So," asked Darigan, "what did you want to talk
The Kougra looked around. "Nice place you have.
Nice land, big citadel, lovely garden…and a simply splendid orb."
He blinked. "Uh…"
"It is magic, is it not?"
"Yes, the orb is magic."
"To get right to the point, our king feels that
we should have it. The Lady Illusen agrees. So…we want it."
Darigan blinked again. "You want the orb?"
"We have, in fact, been instructed to return
with it or not at all, and we aren't going to disobey them."
He almost laughed. He had been looking for an
excuse to get rid of the orb for years! "You can have it."
The Kougra stopped the speech that he was making,
jerking suddenly. "Y-you're giving it to us? You're not even going to
argue or fight?"
"To tell you the truth, I don't want it."
"Oh dear." He looked rather distressed. "I never
imagined this. My orders were quite exact. I expected us to have difficulties,
namely a battle. My apologies," he said, bowing, just as a bell tolled in the
There was a very old bell tower not far from
the castle. In the past, it was used to signal an attack. But with the lack
of wars, it slowly faded into just a memory. Even when Demona attacked, no one
had thought of it. But now, someone was using the ancient bell tower, to announce
Darigan hurried outside. What he saw made him
remember Demona's attack.
The Neopets that had accompanied the Kougra were
running everywhere, lighting things on fire.
Up in the tower, a Peophin could be seen ringing
Darigan saw his friends come charging out, followed
by several others, some not even squires.
The Kougra came out. "It appears they got a little
carried away. Again, I apologize," he said, before trotting off.
Even as he glared at the Kougra, a sense of impending
doom made him glance up at the bell tower. Without quite knowing why, he flew
up to the belfry.
Ridella was there, lying on the ground. "Darigan,"
she gasped. "I tried to stop them. There were just two many… What did they want?"
"They wanted the orb. The Kougra gave them the
command to attack, without knowing that I didn't want it. It'll be okay, Ridella.
"I wouldn't count on that. I think the spear
that hit me had a slow acting poison on it. I'll live for a while longer; how
long, I don't know. Go-Don't look at me like that! I told you, I think it's
a slow one, and I'm a good judge of poisons! Now go protect your people. I'm
not going anywhere…"
After hesitating, he left. The sun was just rising,
and the Kougra and his troops were leaving, with their prize.
He helped extinguish the flames, and he listened
to Kass rant about going to war. Then he went back to the tower.
Darigan carried the weak Peophin down to a building
that wasn't destroyed, and laid her on the bed.
Ridella was right; it was a slow poison, and
she stayed in the same condition for a few weeks.
He had been closer to her than his other friends
had been, and he barely noticed what was happening in the world around him,
until Ridella commented on it.
"You've changed. We've all changed."
Darigan looked startled, and she gave a laugh,
which quickly turned to a cough. "You're too upset. Most of us notice when we
have a transformation thing going on, but not you!" She smiled sadly. "But no
matter what happens in the future, remember that what you look like has nothing
to do with who you truly are. And you need to get back to the real world, or
else you'll wither away." She sighed, but smiled at him. "Farewell, Darigan,
Then, Ridella's eyes closed for the last time.
"No," whispered Darigan. "Ridella, no…"
He walked out, looking as zombie-like as Tara.
The days until the funeral all seemed to blend
together. Vex and the others did their best to cheer him up, but he didn't until
the day of the funeral, when he remembered that Ridella had told him to get
back to the real world.
When the funeral was over, he announced that
he was going to avenge Ridella. No one argued. Other lives had been lost, their
crops were dying, over half of them wanted the orb, and a lot just didn't like
the way they now looked.
It took a lot of research, but finally they found
a spell that could make the entire citadel fly. And so, they all gathered together,
and lifted off.
It was exhilarating, having the ground beneath
your feet shake itself loose from the surrounding land and lift into the skies.
"Whee!" yelled a little Zafara, making Darigan
truly grin for the first time in a long time.
They didn't actually know where to go. Their
only real clue was a name: Illusen.
Finally, they stopped, and hovered over a small
village, where Darigan was going to get information about where they wanted
"Good luck," said Vex, patting him on the shoulder
as he went down.
* * *
It was a very small village. The villagers were known to be superstitious and
were generally unfair to anyone who didn't look "right," as they put it.
Darigan wasn't exactly welcomed. All the Neopets
watched him warily, and many even went inside.
Uncomfortably aware of all of this, he looked
around uselessly, until a white Aisha walked up to him.
"Excuse me, sir," she said. "Are you lost?"
"Kind of," he replied. "I stopped at this place
to get help, but…" He trailed off.
"You mustn't mind them. They have a thing against…well,
Neopets like you. Anyway, what are you trying to find?"
"A place that's home to someone called Illusen."
"Meridell," was the instant response. "It's the
kingdom to the west of us, ruled by King Skarl. It's a great place. While you're
there, I recommend playing Potato Counter and Tower of Turnips!"
Slightly confused, Darigan returned to the floating
citadel, and was greeted by Vex and Galgarrath.
"What did you find out?" asked Galgarrath excitedly.
"We're looking for Meridell, to the west. Their
king is called Skarl. Oh, and for fun, they count potatoes and stack turnips."
Vex hit himself on the forehead. "Of all the
Neopians that could've attacked us, we got stuck with the nuts!"
Vex sighed. "I don't want to go to war!"
"No one wants to," said Darigan.
"Kass does," muttered Galgarrath. "He's thrilled."
"It's not really him," he whispered.
"What?" asked his friends?
"Nothing," he lied.
I can't drag them into this! he told himself.
But then, he recalled Demona's laughter and final words, three spectral figures
that wanted war, and a charm, a circlet, and an orb. Suddenly, he did not want
to go anywhere near Meridell, much less fight against its people. However,
things had gotten out of Darigan's control. The Citadel was steadily moving
west, and many wanted revenge and their beloved orb. They were getting closer
to Meridell by the day, and war was inevitable.
To be continued…