A Peace that Would Last One Thousand Years?: Part Six
"Crossbows at the ready!" Jeran commanded; the archers of
both Meridell and Darigan obeyed. "Catapults, ready! Archers, fire!" Several thousand
arrows flew at the Castle Defender, who howled with rage. He pulled the arrows
out of himself as if they were nothing but splinters, throwing them back down
upon their originators. "Launch the catapults!" Jeran barked; a hundred balls
of flame soared through the air, raining down upon the Defender and his castle.
The Defender winced as he was struck by the fireballs, taking several steps backwards
into one of the tallest towers, outside the castle courtyard. "Ready arrows! Fire!"
Jeran called, and again, all the knights followed his command.
Not yet defeated, the Castle Defender tore the
ornamental shield off of the front of the castle and used it to block the arrows.
"Ready catapults!" Jeran called. The Defender threw the shield like a boomerang,
ruining several catapults and scattering Meridell's forces. The frightened giant
Turtums stomped around aimlessly, crushing their own forces. Jeran again sounded
the horn to regroup
"Remaining catapults, fire!" he called. The spectral
Kougra, however, dodged this time, and struck down the rest of the catapults.
More frightened Turtums ran among Jeran's knights. "Someone get those Turtums
out of here!" Jeran shouted, but his command was mostly ignored this time. No
one wanted to risk getting near the crazed petpets. Knights continued to scatter
in front of the Turtums, while the Castle Defender used the opportunity to strike
the fleeing knights. Jeran himself set about taming the Turtums, and was glad
to find Kass doing the same.
"Still seems strange, helping you," Kass said.
"But I would join with Jhudora herself if it meant taking down The Three...not
to say you're like Jhudora..." he added quickly.
"Same here," replied Jeran, swinging himself
onto a Turtum. Once more, Jeran sounded his horn, and once more, his now depleted
"How can we win?" Kass asked hopelessly. Jeran
had no idea, but he asked for another round of arrows anyways.
The Castle Defender, which Jeran had expected
to be loosing stamina, seemed only to become more powerful. Arrows that previously
had halted the spectre seemed to no longer have any effect. Jeran's fight was
becoming increasingly hopeless as fewer and fewer knights remained. Finally,
Jeran came to a decision.
"Castle Defender! I challenge you to a one-on-one
fight! You leave my knights alone, they leave you alone! Deal?" he called, hoping
the Defender would accept the challenge, though not truly understanding what
such a fight could accomplish, barring the safe return of the rest of the knights.
Some of Darigan's knights, who had grown fond
of their new commander, begged Jeran not to fight. "No, don't go!" called the
Darigan Krawk who Jeran had fought under in the battle at the Citadel. "The
Castle Defender cannot be defeated by one Neopet alone! We need you! I will
fight instead!" Several other Darigans made similar declarations, begging Jeran
not to fight a battle that he could not win, that they would fight instead of
him if necessary, and would gladly continue their fight if it meant he would
not have to fight alone.
Jeran was stunned. He had not realized before
how much Darigan's forces were like Meridell's. He had been so blinded by their
appearances that he had not taken much time to discover their true essence,
only admitting that they were not quite as bad as he originally thought. He
had not thought them capable of love, yet they were willing to give themselves
up to save him, as he was for them. But now, everything had changed. The Darigans
had proven themselves to him, and he respected them, though he looked gladly
upon the day when he would be transformed back. Though moved by his knights'
valiant declarations, however, Jeran did not give up his previous decision to
fight the Defender.
"I am sorry, my friends, but I must face this
challenge alone. If I face the Castle Defender, you will be able to escape.
That is all I care about now," Jeran declared. "So, Castle Defender, fight me,
and leave my knights alone! Will you accept the challenge set forth this moment
by Darigan's commander?" he called.
The Castle Defender stepped forward, accepting
the challenge. Jeran rode the Turtum into the castle courtyard, establishing
a ring. Meridell and Darigan looked on as a single, small Darigan Lupe stepped
forward to challenge the giant spectre. The Defender took the offensive, charging
Jeran, who parried his blow. The real fight had begun.
The Three watched from above, smirking. To them,
this turn of events was perfect. No single Neopet could defeat their Castle
Defender! Jeran would fall, and Meridell would be left unprotected. As for Darigan-
Plan B was in effect!
At the Citadel, Darigan fitted on his armour
and picked up his old sword. It was strange, he thought, how well his fight
seemed to be going. The Three were not the types to sit back and lose. It was
too quiet- Darigan did not like the silence in the least.
As he readied himself to enter the fray, Darigan
found that, again, something seemed wrong. He tried to think of what it could
be, but drew a blank. That infernal silence was keeping him from thinking properly!
However, that silence could be the source of the uneasiness, Darigan thought.
Finally, he realized. He rushed to the engine room- there were no engine sounds!
The Three were trying to drop the Citadel again!
Back at Meridell Castle, Jeran was having trouble.
He blocked all of the Castle Defender's attacks, but he found that he was quickly
wearing down. The spectre's enormous power was behind every single blow, and
even the Sunblade was starting to weaken from the force. Jeran would have to
do something, and fast, if he hoped to survive. Fortunately, Faerie weapons
always have something special about them, and the Sunblade was no exception.
As Jeran, struggling to keep the Defender's sword from splitting him in two,
thought about Lisha, and how much he wanted to see her one last time, the Sunblade's
full potential was released, the blade glowing with all the brightness of the
sun itself. The Defender stepped backwards, shielding his eyes. Jeran used the
opportunity to jump high and cleave his opponent's sword in two. Unfortunately,
the Defender struck back much sooner than Jeran had planned, and he was unable
to block a claw swipe to his stomach from the spectre. Though the Shadow Armour
took much of the force, it could not stand it all, and it was torn. Jeran laid
sprawled out on the ground, three large scratches across his stomach. The Lupe
could barely sit up, while the Defender seemed unharmed. Things did not look
good for Jeran.
Kass watched the fight, horrified at his inability
to help. How was he supposed to sit around and watch his new ally...and even
friend...just get killed for no reason? Although, he supposed, Jeran may have
been trying to buy a safe retreat for those horrible cowards who made no attempt
to help their commander! He was not going to leave like them, turn his back
on Jeran and run! Though he could do nothing to help, Kass vowed that he himself
would fight to the death against the Castle Defender if Jeran failed. It would
be the least he could do... He would not be a coward!
Darigan rushed into the engine room, where a
horrible scene awaited him- the engine operator in a heap on the ground in the
midst of roaring flames. The engines were not just disabled, they were massacred!
There was no way of getting the engines up and running in the condition they
were in, and if the flames were not stopped, the whole Citadel could go up in
smoke. Darigan ran into the flames, disregarding his own safety, and pulled
the engine operator out. He woke up the unconscious engine operator, and asked
him what happened. All the operator managed before passing out was, "Meridellian
children...tricked me...threw some powder into the engines...explosion..."
"The Three use children?" Darigan gasped. But
that gave him an idea. The children of the Citadel had stayed behind. They could
help to put out the fire. Darigan led them down to Hope River in Meridell, and
filled up buckets with the water, and flew back to the Citadel. Time and time
again, they flew back and forth, until the fire was finally extinguished. Darigan
searched the engine room for any sign of a working piece of equipment, to no
avail. Looking inside the engines, Darigan found that the mechanism used to
hold up the Citadel had completely melted away. There was no way to fix the
engines. The Citadel had some magic that it used to hold it up, but it was very
primitive, and could not prevent the Citadel from crashing into the ground,
just hold it where it was for a short period of time. The Citadel, it seemed,
To be continued...