Conkerberries on the Horizon
It was a chilly Sunday morning in Brightvale. The sun had begun to rise, and the horizon, broken up by the outline of the giant castle, had a faint purple shine all around.
During the night, the grassland had collected its morning dew, and it remained misty up to a few meters above the ground.
For an outsider, it might have looked like someone was waving a large club over the fogged grass. Razeal knew better.
It was her brother Firecrafter, whose tail had a tip made of solid bone. He tended to forget that fact, which was why many a window had shattered by it, often followed by ‘Whoops’.
That’s probably the reason he spends so much time outside now, where he can swing away with it, she thought.
Razeal grabbed a woollen scarf and cap and stepped out of the house. She left her decorative Island wristbands and flower, as they didn’t provide much warmth.
“Hey Fire-“ *whoosh* “-Whoa, watch that tail of yours!” She barely evaded a swing of his tail.
Firecrafter landed his tail on the ground with a thud and grinned, baring his Tyrannian fangs.
“Sorry sis, didn’t see you there.”
“Dang, it’s cold out here!” Razeal said, shivering. “How do you endure this?”
“Bori originate from Terror Mountain, remember?” Firecrafter said, bouncing his tail on the ground.
“And there’s that rough fur of yours; I’m sure that helps. Lutaris being from a tropical climate doesn’t do much good in this cold,” Razeal said.
“That island coat of yours sure looks pretty, but it’s not very practical either,” Firecrafter continued. A small hole was forming where he was bashing his tail.
“What are you doing out here so early anyway?” Razeal asked, and sat down against him.
“Oh, I wanted to see the sun rise. Cold, misty weather always make the best sunrises, don’t you think?” Firecrafter said, laying his tail around Razeal.
She shrugged. “I guess. Well, I’m going back in; it’s getting too cold for me.”
“Are we still having Tangella salad for lunch?”
“Only if you bring the Tangellas. I’d rather stay inside today. When are you coming?” Razeal asked, getting to her feet.
“I’ll see. I want to enjoy the scene first.”
“Alright, see you later,” Razeal called out, as she walked off.
Firecrafter waved his tail to her, and then directed his look back to the sky. The sun’s rays were now warming his face, and they banished the dew from the grassland. Clouds were strolling into the scene, contrasting the deep blue with yellowish fluff.
“Artists would kill for this kind of view,” Firecrafter thought. For him, the memory of a beautiful scene was better than any painting could depict. With all kinds of other beautiful scenes in his head, he started to doze off...
Firecrafter was woken by a bright flash, seen from behind his closed eyelids. Upon opening them, he was blinded by the sun, which was still shining warm rays on his face. His eyes adjusted quickly, and then he saw the origin of the flash that woke him: It was the sun reflecting off the polished armour of a Meridellian Draik knight flying through the sky. It made it seem like a shining star among the clouds.
“The blue scales are too dark. They clash with the sky blue and white,” was his first thought. He was slightly annoyed with the anomaly in the perfect picture. It was only after that when he saw the state of the knight: He was flying with tremendous effort to keep himself and his heavy armour aloft.
Even before Firecrafter could ask himself why a knight in full armour would fly all the way to Brightvale, the Draik knight seemed to lose all strength while still in midair, and his wings stopped, causing him to fall spiralling to the ground.
“There goes the peace and quiet,” Firecrafter thought. He got up and rushed over to where he had seen the knight fall.
After a short sprint, he reached a dense patch of rose bushes, and heard moaning in the distance. He started climbing over the bushes. Protected by his tough scales and rough four, he was not wounded by the thorns.
While he came closer, he heard the Draik knight shout: “Is someone there?”
Firecrafter reached the place where the knight had landed, to find the tip of a sword in front of his nose.
“You’re not here to mug me, are you?” the Draik asked.
“No, of course not! I’m here to help. Will you get that sword out of my face?”
The knight lowered his sword with a grunt of pain.
Firecrafter saw that the Draik was bruised in several places, and his wings were damaged. He also noticed a roll of parchment in his other hand, which he recognized as being marked by King Skarl’s seal.
The Draik pulled out a leather pouch from underneath him, which was also ripped by the thorny bushes. He handed it to Firecrafter. Opening it revealed all sorts of fruits and herbs.
“There’s a Yellow Healthshroom somewhere in there,” the Draik moaned.
Firecrafter found the mushroom. It was somewhat bruised, but intact. He handed it to the Draik, who ate it in a few bites. After finishing it, he sighed.
“Ahh, much better. Thank you for coming to my aid, and I apologize for holding a sword to your face. You just can’t be too careful away from home.”
“But this is Brightvale! Nothing ever happens here, least of all muggers,” Firecrafter snapped at him, forgetting the Draik’s state. “I’m Firecrafter; who are you?”
“My name is not important, but what’s important is that I get this message to King Hagan as quickly as possible. The peace of both kingdoms, Meridell and Brightvale, may be in danger,” he responded urgently. “I will explain, if you can please get me out of these bushes.”
“Alright, I’ll just carry you on my back.” Firecrafter sat down next to him, but the Draik hesitated at the sight of the spikes on his back.
“Oh come on,” he said, rolling his eyes. “You’re wearing plate armour; you could do more damage to me than I to you.”
The knight nodded something in agreement, and hoisted himself on Firecrafter’s back. He climbed over the bushes and let the knight slip off on the grass near the place he lay before.
“Thank you. You see, we have reason to believe that spies been spreading false information about King Skarl and the kingdom of Meridell, and everyone needs to be brought to attention of that. All the other, lighter equipped messengers were already sent out to other parts of Neopia, so the King had to send out members of the Royal Guard too. But I am in no state to deliver this message now. Could you help me out?”
“I would help, but I don’t know how. I can’t get to Brightvale Castle on foot,” Firecrafter answered, swinging his tail in the direction of the castle. “I haven’t even eaten anything yet.”
Firecrafter continued swinging his tail in thought, looking towards the castle. It would take only a few minutes to fly there, only there was no path anywhere near the bushes they were in the middle of, only a dense forest ahead of the rose bushes. He thought, and swung again... And then it hit him.
Firecrafter grabbed the leather pouch again and searched through it, retrieving a large, hard berry.
“A Conkerberry? What are you planning on doing with that?” the Draik asked, but Firecrafter didn’t answer. He looked towards the castle again, and weighed the berry in his paw. He then went to the flattened patch of grass where he lay before, threw the Conkerberry up in the air, made a full turn and then hit it with a mighty swing of his tail. The berry flew with a bow towards the castle, and broke a flag on top of one of the towers. It fell down, right past a window where Firecrafter knew the King’s study was.
“Beautiful.” Firecrafter grinned, baring his fangs again.
“That was really impressive! So you want to whack the message all the way over there?” The Draik knight asked.
“That’s the plan,” Firecrafter replied. He took another Conkerberry from the pouch.
“Could I use the string from the pouch to tie it?” Firecrafter asked.
“Sure, go ahead. Anything that gets the message delivered,” the Draik replied, handing over the roll of parchment. He repeated the guess to the distance and weight of the berry, then threw it up high and hit it with another swing of his tail. This time, the berry hit the wall above the lower terrace of the castle, splintering apart and leaving the roll of parchment to drop on the floor. Guards quickly came running to the scene, thinking it was an attack, but only found the parchment, sealed with King Skarl’s seal ring.
“I can’t thank you enough for this. You saved the peace, and maybe even avoided a war between our kingdoms,” the Draik knight said gratefully.
“Our kingdoms,” Firecrafter thought. “I like the sound of that.”
“I must give you something. You mentioned not having eaten, so I want you to have my emergency food pouch,” the knight continued.
“Oh... Well, thank you, but don’t you need it yourself? You were injured pretty badly,” Firecrafter replied.
“The mushroom gave me a boost, so I think I can hold out for a while now. I insist that you keep it,” he said, as he pushed the pouch – now stringless – into Firecrafter's paws. “I must leave now. There is an inn not far from here where I can rest, so we must part our ways now. Thank you again for your help,” the knight said, then started walking away.
“Wait!” Firecrafter shouted. The Draik stopped, turned around.
“You haven’t told me your name yet!”
He smiled. “My name is Valrigard. Goodbye now.”
Valrigard... The name sounded oddly familiar, but Firecrafter couldn’t place it.
“Hey, Razeal, I’m back,” Firecrafter called out, as he walked through the door.
“Well, you took long enough. I was starting to get hungry. Did you bring the Tangellas?” Razeal asked.
“No, a change of plan. How do you feel about mushroom soup?” Firecrafter gave her the pouch with mushrooms.
“But... These can’t be found anywhere near here!” Razeal said in amazement. “How did you find these?”
“They were a gift. I helped someone post a letter,” Firecrafter said calmly.
“Oh... Well, I’ll just go make that soup then,” Razeal said, slightly bedazzled.
“Brightvale doesn’t have a postal service,” she thought while taking the mushrooms into the kitchen.