Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 113,881,443 Issue: 159 | 24th day of Gathering, Y6
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A Peace that Would Lst One Thousand Years?: Part One

by ikkin_with_attitude


One fine day in Meridell, King Skarl was taking his weekly ride through the countryside. It was not, of course, something he actually enjoyed, just a tradition that he felt unfit to break, despite the fact that he would much rather be eating his second post-breakfast, pre-lunch snack. So, for tradition's sake, the rather hungry Skeith was ignoring his growling stomach and instead sitting in a carriage, surveying the peaceful, boring, uneventful Meridellian countryside.

      This calm was not to last, however, as Skarl's carriage screeched to a halt, throwing him forward and hitting his head on the ceiling. Rubbing his head, Skarl pulled himself out of the carriage, wondering who or what he should throw in the dungeon for his misfortune. His two guards seemed to be arguing with the cause of the disturbance, a hooded-something. It was unlike anything Skarl had ever seen before, though being in the form of a Skeith. The Skeith seemed to be attempting to conceal itself fully; Skarl, however, could tell it was not possible, though seeing the Skeith's reasons fully. It did not seem to be fully tangible, rather like smoke or a shadow, something that could be seen but not touched. It was transparent like a ghost neopet, but it seemed unreal, unlike the ghost Neopets, who were only painted. Looking closer, Skarl could tell that even the Skeith's cloak was transparent, as was his skin, so he could see straight through to the unnatural creature's bones. The mere presence of this strange creature seemed to drain the warmth out of the previously present day, freezing Skarl to the spot.

      The spectral Skeith spoke for the first time. Its voice, like its body, seemed ghostly and unreal, somewhat between a whisper and a hiss. The spectre spoke to Skarl, ignoring the two Draik guards who pointed their spears at him, yelling, "No one shall speak to the King like this! Leave now!"

      "So, King Skarl, how is your country's relationship with Darigan? Do you trust him, he who attacked your country not once or twice, but three times? He who stole the Orb that caused Meridell to prosper? The demons which he calls subjects, whose forms betray their inner evil? Has Darigan ever done anything to deserve your trust?"

      King Skarl was completely unable to respond, or even think of any response at all. He knew there must be some reason why he trusted Darigan, but when he tried to think of it, he found a strong, and strangely unnatural, mental block. But Skarl found himself able to blame the other Skeith for this, in spite of any natural suspicion that should have warned him. The spectral Skeith's voice burnt once more into the King's head, hypnotizing the other into blind belief.

      "What do you know of Darigan?" King Skarl asked. "Do you know something of Darigan that would threaten Meridell again?"

      The other Skeith smirked- the King, of course, was playing into his hand perfectly. "Of course, dear King. What else would a villain such as Darigan be doing? He has been rather quiet-too quiet." Here the spectre paused for a moment, to let Skarl come to his own conclusion, then continued, "Darigan has been plotting your destruction! The Orb, though destroyed, still controls Darigan, the need of it fills his every waking hour, thoughts of its destruction plague his dreams! He would never forgive Meridell, who destroyed his precious Orb! He will attack, I would bet my life on it! As King of Meridell, you should be ready! Attack him first! If you fail to do so, the destruction of Meridell will forever be placed on your head! Attack Darigan!" With this, the Skeith disappeared, leaving nothing besides a scorch mark in the Meridellian dirt and some smoke in the air.

      Skarl stood where he was for a moment, completely unable to move or speak, lost in thoughts which he never thought he would have. A few seconds passed in silence, until one of Skarl's Draik guards woke him from his trance. Skarl looked at the guard severely. "You heard what he said! Back to the castle! We must prepare for an attack!

      Meanwhile, Sir Jeran Borodere, Meridell's champion and the commander of King Skarl's forces, was in a remote field in Meridell used by the knights for training exercises, lost in his newest and most difficult training routine. His movements were swift despite his heavy armour, and flowed like some sort of deadly dance, his sword an extension of his body rather than a separate entity. Jeran drew to the end of this routine, finishing by resheathing his sword so swiftly that it created a loud, high pitched sound that drove a flock of Crokabek from the trees in which they were resting. Jeran wiped his brow then dropped to the ground, exhausted. He had pushed himself to his limits and beyond since the end of the Battle for Meridell, humbled by his rather poor performance. The next time someone attempted to take over Meridell, he thought, I will not be brought down so easily!

      Jeran had reason for his new obsession with training- the last fight he was in was a miserable failure, ending in his literal fall from Darigan Citadel. If Psellia had not been there to heal him, he would never have survived the fall off the Citadel, and even still, he barely survived. Meridell's best physicians had little hope for him; saying at first that he would never be able to walk unsupported again, then, after the determined Lupe forced himself to his feet, that he would never be able to fight again. Jeran's indomitable fighting spirit would never stand for such a loss, however, and he miraculously made a full recovery. He gave 110% of his energy to retraining himself, managing to surpass all expectations and not only regain his previous strength, but to take his training several levels further. Meridell's champion would never again be made a fool of!

      Jeran had his own personal reasons for his new training, of course. Thoughts of the destruction caused first by Darigan and then by Kass had haunted his mind while trapped in the infirmary, and had not been far removed. Jeran wanted to personally make sure nothing similar would ever happen, especially since Darigan was still in charge of the Citadel. He felt that Darigan deserved a punishment that he never received, punishment for the destruction of Meridell that he had caused with the Orb. Kass was missing, presumed dead, but Jeran felt that he, too, should pay a price for Meridell's last conflict and humiliation. Jeran desired revenge, and he wanted the ability to carry it out.

      The exhausted knight pulled himself up, walking to the tent set up for knights to change in, and changed out of his armour. Just as he pulled his tunic over his light chain mail vest, his normal attire, one of Skarl's Draik guards rushed in. The Draik, who had run a long distance, tried to regain his breath, gasping, "Captain Jeran, sir, King Skarl needs you! It's about Darigan!" Jeran unbridled the Uni that he rode out to the field with, and they flew back to the castle. Darigan was attacking-Jeran knew it!

      Soon, Jeran was outside King Skarl's chambers, waiting for the King to let him in. One of Skarl's guards opened the door and ushered Jeran in. Jeran ran up to Skarl, asking, "You have need of me, your Majesty?"

      "Why yes, my dear Jeran. You see, something rather strange happened to me when I was out riding. Do you know what it was?" the King asked his most trusted advisor.

      "I do not, your Majesty," Jeran replied. "What happened?"

      "Well," the King replied, "I was out riding, not bothering anybody, when this Skeith in a cloak appeared from nowhere, stopping my carriage! Even stranger, this Skeith was transparent!"

      "How odd," Jeran said. He would never admit it to the King, but he had seen a similar figure in his dreams, a Gelert who, like the Skeith, was transparent Jeran did not trust the figure from his dreams, which constantly called for immediate revenge on Darigan, and was likewise suspicious of Skarl's Skeith, but he did not voice these concerns, fearing that revealing them would make his own secret be known.

      "Do you know what the Skeith said?" Skarl asked, cutting Jeran's thoughts off suddenly. He did not wait for an answer before he continued, "That Skeith said that Darigan is going to attack us! That no-good, two-timing fool Darigan, trying to attack us again!"

      Jeran was still suspicious of the Skeith, as the reasonable part of himself realized that Darigan would have no reason at all to attack. There was little evidence for an attack, not counting the Skeith's words, far too little to cause King Skarl to be so adamant about Darigan attacking. The sane part of Jeran suspected hypnotism, while the part of him bent towards revenge ignored all evidence against a Darigan attack, wanting to seize the opportunity to take Darigan down. The reasonable part won, however, and tried to convince Skarl that Darigan would not want an attack.

      "Are you sure this Skeith is trustworthy?" Jeran asked. "Why risk war with a power that nearly destroyed Meridell just a few months ago over the words of a single individual?"

      Skarl seemed personally offended by this, but could not think of a proper rebuttal. "But Darigan wants to attack the castle! Attack us! Take us out so Meridell can't fight! Do you want to risk your own life?"

      Jeran doubted that Darigan would use such a tactic. Darigan had no reason to attack in the first place, as the Orb had been destroyed. Even when Meridell had the Orb, however, Darigan had not sunk so low as to try to wipe out the castle- when he came, he came openly, not with a sneak attack. That Skeith was just not to be trusted, not with matters like this. Skarl would not be persuaded, however, ignoring every argument Jeran used and spouting off nonsense in reply. Skarl himself sounded the horn, calling Meridell to arms, while Jeran watched on, forbidden to physically restrain him. Jeran stalked off to his room, wondering what was to be done.

To be continued...

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