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Midnight over Meridell: Part Three

by ratling_guardian


Part III: Knights and Magi

We crept along the roof of the castle, looking fervently for any way of getting in. Unfortunately, the only way we could think of was the drawbridge, but as it was still midnight, it was not going to be lowered. BUREUNIKONE suggested the windows, but I quashed this idea by reminding him that he was the only one with a pair of wings. We continued along the roof, hoping to come across something like an air vent, but to no avail. Finally, I sat down in frustration and tried to formulate a plan.

      "Any ideas, Mr. Wiseguy?" BUREUNIKONE asked.

      "Shut up," I snapped, trying to hit him, but he was just out of reach. "I'm trying to think of some way in."

      A few seconds later, my face lit up as I had an idea, and my pets backed away. If I had an idea, there was no doubt it wouldn't be good.

      "Yes… yes, it's the only way…" I muttered to myself.

      "Daddy," Eralta asked nervously while I dug inside my pocket, "what are you going to- ARGH!"

      Everyone yelled as I withdrew my hand, sprinkled some powder on the roof, and it collapsed. We fell through, yet fortunately sustained very minor injuries - cuts, bruises and such.

      "Come on," I hissed, and sprinted away as quietly as we could - no doubt that half the castle would wake up after a crash like that. We looked as hard as we could for a map, to see which part of the castle we were in, but the best we could find was a sign saying 'You Are Here'. However, after five minutes of running, a Draik patrol spotted us.

      "You there! Stop!" they ordered.

      "Run!" I yelled, and we sprinted in the opposite direction - the Draiks gave chase. However, we had been running for less than a minute when another set of Draiks rounded a corner in front of us - we were trapped, except…

      "The window!" Opessenc cried, and we all dashed towards it. However, as I began to leap, a Draik grabbed my leg, and I banged my chin against the sill of the window, and could taste something other than saliva. I kicked out, and heard my foot connect with his face, due to his cry of pain, and propelled myself out into the moat. My pets were already on the bank, gasping for air and trying to dry themselves off at the same time. I collapsed beside them and began formulating another plan to get help. A few seconds later, Eralta cried out.

      "Daddy! What happened to your mouth?!"

      "Huh? Oh…" I said, feeling my lips, which were covered in something that was neither water nor saliva. I looked at my fingers, which were now smeared with blood. I swore. "It must have been when I hit the window sill!"

      "What?" asked Alkarasydes, who was shaking herself.

      "Oh, as I tried to jump out the window, one of the guards grabbed my leg and I smashed my mouth on the windowsill," I explained, trying to stem the flow with my sleeve, "I guess I must have lost a tooth, or… or something…"

      "Here," BUREUNIKONE said, tapping his horn against my mouth. Nothing happened.

      "It must only work on other pets," I said, still trying in vain to stop the flow. My sleeve was now wet, and not with the moat water.

      "We'd better get you back to the inn," Opessenc said seriously, and my pets lead the way back. How is beyond me, as I certainly didn't have any idea what part of the castle we were at. Still, we managed to make it back to the inn, where I heavily bandaged my jaw and waited an hour or so for the bleeding to stop while Eralta thought of a plan.

      "Any idea what those faeries were?" I asked after I removed the bandages from my mouth.

      "Dunno," said Eralta, "they looked like shadows, but upright, and solid…"

      I frowned, wondering what in Neopia was going on. I had confirmed it wasn't a dream, that much was certain. But what could make the night stay as it is, Mutant pets suddenly appear and the shadows of various faeries suddenly spring up and wander around aimlessly? And nobody could help, because everyone was still asleep, and everyone in the castle couldn't get out because it was still night, and only night patrols were awake…

      "We need to find someone to believe us, and then we need access to a library of some sort," I said, getting up. My pets looked shocked at the very idea.

      "But Daddy," protested Alkarasydes, "it'll be impossible to get into the castle again without being caught…"

      "There's only one thing for it," I said, "we go back to the hole we made, and hope that whoever is guarding it will believe us. If not, well, we'll break out and leave some other poor fool to do our job."

      I tried to look noble, but something in my voice or eyes must have given away the fact that I was greatly hoping we'd have to take the latter of the two choices.

      "Come on, let's go," I said. We proceeded to the drawbridge, hiding in some bushes outside, but fortunately it was unguarded - so far. We clambered across the rope again (BUREUNIKONE flew this time, however) and proceeded to the hole we made. Below us was a pair of White Draiks; one was male, and wearing his armour, and the other was female, who was wearing a robe.

      "Now?" whispered Opessenc.

      "Yup, here goes nothing…" I whispered back, taking a deep breath, "Excuse me!"

      The Draiks looked up, and the male one grinned.

      "Well, well, well," he said, "I never expected a prisoner to come back…"

      "Just hear me out, please," I said, "aren't you wondering why it's still midnight?"

      He opened his mouth to respond, and then frowned slightly, glancing at the moon, which was still fixated in the middle of the sky.

      "Yes," he said slowly, "why?"

      "Well, we were wondering that too, and the reason we were in the castle was to try and find help…"

      And so I launched into an explanation about why we were in the castle, starting from the weird Neomail I received before I turned in, and how it was midnight when I awoke, and then our failure plan as to how to get into the castle and find help. With each passing minute, the two Draiks each gained a frown, growing deeper and deeper, and by the time I was done, the male looked like he was going to shout himself hoarse. However, he didn't. Instead, the female replied calmly and seriously.

      "Very well, we believe you," she said, and my pets and I exchanged incredulous glances - we were expecting prison. "Follow me; I think I have read something like this before…"

      We slipped down the hole and into the castle, following the two Draiks. We weren't sure whether or not to trust them, but even still, there was a plan B if plan A failed. However, after two corners and a stairway, another night patrol was heard coming around a corner.

      "Uh-oh," the male whispered, pushing us aside behind a suit of armour. He and the other one followed.

      "This won't hide us all," I hissed.

      "No, but this will," replied the female, pulling out a ruby-tipped golden wand and waving it while muttering some strange words. A second later, it felt like a blanket was draped over me. I looked around, but nothing was seen. And nothing was touching us.

      "We're still in perfect view!" I said.

      "Not to them," she explained. "You see, I cast Veil of the Eye on us; it covers us with a, well, blanket, you could say, of magic, and whatever is under is invisible to those outside it. It wears off when I dispel it."

      "Well, that's all well and good," I said, "but what about the fact that half of the pedestal this suit of armour is on is now missing?!"

      "Oh, that won't be a problem," she said, pointing her wand under the Veil and whispering a quick incantation. A knocking noise sounded near the end of the corridor.

      "What was that?" barked one of the coming Draiks.

      "It came from down there!" said the other, and they both sprinted down the other corner and out of sight.

      "Okay, let's go!" said the Draik who cast the spells. She dispelled the Veil (at least I guessed she did because I could no longer feel it) and we all straightened up, and went on our way. After five more minutes in which we fortunately did not encounter any more patrols, we arrived outside two large oak doors.

      "The library," said the male Draik. He pushed open the doors, ushered us inside, and slipped in after us, closing the doors quietly. After the Veil trick and seeing the stacks of books and shelves, I concluded that these two were not trying to get us into prison. And I also sensed a determination, beside the evil that was stretching around us - they seemed to want to find the key to this darkness as much as we did.

      The library we were in was huge, to say the least. It stretched as far as the eye could see, and nobody would expect it to be so big from the outside, which it wasn't. There was certain magic in the air that mingled with the evil from the night outside, and the determination from the two Draiks, and that told me certain enchantments allowed it to be so huge.

      "Did you, uh, ever tell us your names?" BUREUNIKONE asked after we walked past what appeared to be the seventy-second shelf.

      "Oh, no," said the male, without turning, "I'm Triy, one of the General Knights in the High Vanguard of Meridell, like Jeran, and this is my sister. Well, she'll introduce herself."

      "I am Luun, one of the King's Archmagi, like Jeran's sister, Lisha," said the female Draik. "Kinda uncanny, isn't it?" she added to her brother.

      "Yes, rather, two brothers and sisters, exactly the same rank… Ah, here we are," he said. We were in front of a long table clearly designed for reading only. A few candles were still there, but put out. Triy lit them with his breath.

      "Okay, I'm going to go fetch the book," said Luun. "I'll be right back…"

      She left the candlelight and was instantly consumed by the darkness around us. A few minutes later, in which the only sound was the spitting when the candle encountered a large blob of wax, she came back, carrying a huge book. It was entitled Myths of Meridell's Past - An Insight. She almost slammed it on the table, sending a huge cloud of dust up.

      "While I was still in training, I took this out of here for some light reading," she explained, and began flicking through the pages.

      "Oh yes, very light," coughed Eralta sarcastically, trying to see through all the dust. Luun paid her no attention.

      "Ah, here we are," she said, "the Crystal Palace!"

      We stared blankly at her.

      "Oh, for f- here!"

      She shoved the book to us, and Triy read aloud: "Centuries ago, possibly even millenniums, Meridell was a huge land that spread across nearly all of Neopia. It was prosperous and healthy, with few problems and ruled by many wise Kings and Queens. In the centre of Meridell, or as it was known back then, Aldaria, which meant 'Unity of All', was the Crystal Palace, a huge castle the size of Terror Mountain. This was where the centre of action was in Aldaria, and it was possibly the most powerful stronghold - even more so than the Space Station, at least before the Space Faerie defeated Sloth. While this went on for an undefined amount of time - the beginning date is yet unknown - it did not last forever. One day, a massive wave of Darkness swept over the land, supposedly caused by a Shoyru named Oban. It shattered Aldaria, breaking it into the different islands that are now Neopia. The Crystal Palace was engulfed in shadows and evil, and disappeared into the Shadow Realm, and was named the Shadow Palace instead."

      We looked up.

      "What's this got to do with…?" I began.

      "Keep reading," Luun said impatiently. We looked back down, and Triy continued.

      "A short time ago, an ancient tablet was found in the mountains north of Meridell. It read that this evil would one day return, bringing 'Eternal Midnight' to the land and finishing what it did not the first time. The Shadow Palace would take the place of Meridell Castle, and the lands would re-unite to form a teeming world of evil."

      We shut the book.

      "Well, this is it, then, isn't it?" Alkarasydes said excitedly. "Obviously the Palace has returned, and we'll have to go there to find out some way to stop it and send it back to this 'Shadow Realm', and then-"

      "Alkarasydes," Opessenc interrupted, "stop for a second, and measure the impossibility of what you are saying."

      Alkarasydes opened her mouth, thought for a few seconds, and closed it.

      "We're done for," she said.

      "No, we're not," Luun said sharply, "we're gonna get to the bottom of this, and that's that. Meridell is not going to be overrun by an army from another realm."

      "But… how?" I asked weakly.

      "We'll try," Triy said. I dreaded that answer.

To be continued…

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» Midnight over Meridell: Part One
» Midnight over Meridell: Part Two

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