Preventing a War: Part One
“Galgarrath!” yelled Lord Darigan, smashing his fist on the table. Stress emphasized the dark rings under his eyes. These last few weeks had been horrible. All sorts of new Darigans were showing up, complaining about the truce. They wanted war, and he couldn’t hold it off much longer. He gazed out the window over his floating kingdom, and worries filled his heart.
Galgarrath ran into the chamber. The Grarrl had been in and out of this room so much lately, he usually just slept right outside the door. He rubbed his eyes, trying to rid himself of the sleep that clouded his gaze. Lord Darigan waited impatiently, tapping the wood in front of him.
Realizing that Lord Darigan was waiting for him, Galgarrath stretched as subtly as a Grarrl could. “Yes, sir?” he said.
“I need you to do something for me,” replied Darigan. “Run down to the jail cells and tell Master Vex to come speak with me. It is of the most urgent matter. You can take his place for the short duration he is up here.”
Galgarrath gaped at the Korbat. Vex hadn’t left the Cell Blocks since the war with Meridell had ended. His meals were even brought to him! Galgarrath would know if Vex had gotten his own meal, since he was usually the one who had to take it to the prison. What could be so important?
“Don’t just stand there!” shouted Darigan. “Be useful, and move faster than you normally do.”
The Grarrl turned, understanding of his Lord’s predicament. The citizens were uprising, and it wasn’t getting any easier to quell them. Some had even started handing out arms.
Galgarrath reached the steps, and paused. He could see the prison roof through the window, and something was disturbing him. A thin wisp of smoke was rising from the ground, as if multiple torches were burning. The Grarrl rushed down the winding stairs, his instinct screaming an alarm.
He burst into the main hall, turning sluggishly towards the door. Galgarrath wasn’t in the best shape of his life, and even a short sprint like this left him gasping for breath. He stopped, and leaned towards the ground. He started walking towards the door, waiting for his quick breathing to slow.
Reaching the door, he shoved it aside with one arm. What he lacked in speed, he made up for in strength. Knowing the cell blocks were just around the corner, the Grarrl burst into a dead sprint, but when he saw what was causing the rising column of smoke, he couldn’t help but gape. At the base of the prison, slamming a battering ram against the blockade, was a crowd of raging Neopets.
The Darigan-colored minions were shouting at Master Vex, who stood in a window high above the mob’s purple and red heads. As far as Galgarrath could tell, they wanted to attack the captives.
“I’ve guarded these cells for longer than most of you have been alive,” Galgarrath heard Vex say. “Don’t tell me whether or not my prisoners should be punished. I’ll be the judge.” At that moment, Vex spotted Galgarrath.
“Hello, Master Vex. Is everything all right?” the Grarrl yelled over the Neopets.
Vex laughed out loud, startling the crowd below. “Couldn’t be better, Galgarrath. Why don’t you come join the party?”
Galgarrath smiled. Vex only took two things seriously, and that was his job, and Cell Block. Though Galgarrath was good at it, he only played to beat his opponent, and because the Mynci warden did.
Proceeding towards the boisterous Neopets, he watched with wary eyes. The ones farthest from the tower edged backwards, afraid of the fearsome appearance of the Grarrl guard approaching them.
Then, Galgarrath stopped in amazement. They weren’t retreating. They were forming a path! The Darigans split to either side of the door, compressing themselves together. Out of the abyss of Neopets walked a single Cybunny. One that Galgarrath had only heard mentioned in frightening stories of the Haunted Woods.
Mistress Haunt, the creature of nightmares, confidently walked forward. The Halloween Neopet seemed to radiate confidence, making all that were near her follow without asking why. Her collar of fur was pitch black, with maroon colored hearts decorating it. Unlike normal Halloween Cybunnies, her fur was a red color, and her feet were shadows underneath her. None of these were the most frightening, though.
The scariest attribute of Mistress Haunt was her eyes. They were the most brilliant pink in Neopia, even brighter than those of Queen Fyora. Within them, you could see the reflection of your very soul, and never once would you question what you saw. It disconcerted Galgarrath that an evil creature such as her would be blessed with such a glimmering gaze.
Mistress Haunt looked at the Grarrl in just such a fashion, but he averted his gaze, afraid of what he might see. She examined him, judging his worth, his deepest fears. Finally satisfied with what she saw, she spoke. “Welcome, courageous Grarrl. I hope you haven’t too quickly judged those of us here.” The soft, melodious sound wove its way into Galgarrath’s head, incapacitating him.
Fighting the magical tone of her voice, he mustered up all his strength, and forced himself to speak. “Leave Master Vex alone, and leave Darigan Citadel in peace. This is no place for a Halloween Cybunny.” Despite his greatest efforts, his tone came out weak and pathetic. He looked ashamedly at the ground.
Mistress Haunt emitted a chiming laugh, then focused intensely on the spikes near the back of his head. She waited for him to lift his gaze, but he refused to be captivated by her. His denial didn’t shake her, however. She kept her pleasant tone.
“You think I’m trying to assault the cunning Master Vex, warden of the Citadel? You mistake me. I just want to restore this land to its former glory. If a few foolish prisoners must be punished in order to fuel an inevitably war, then what’s the harm?”
At this, Galgarrath twitched. She was far greater at convincing than he had thought. It was especially hard to not side with her when she was echoing his very ideas. He too believed that another fight with Meridell was unavoidable. But he remained loyal to Lord Darigan, and he would not go to war without his approval. She was a stronger enchantress than he had estimated.
“I do not believe your intentions are to harm him, but he will protect his prisoners no matter what. I will not allow you to do whatever it is you intend to do, for it will harm the Citadel as well.”
The mob roared in protest, but their mystifying leader only had to look at them for silence, and they obeyed. “Like puppets following against their will,” muttered Galgarrath.
“What was that?” the Mistress asked sweetly.
Summoning his courage once more, Galgarrath replied. “I said they can’t do anything without a guiding hand, and you’re exactly the puppet master they need.” This comment, though, didn’t cause anger at all. The Grarrl watched, laughing to himself.
“I suppose you’re right,” sighed the Cybunny. “You, on the other hand, are strong-minded. Why don’t you join me, and help restore Darigan Citadel to its rightful place?”
Again, her words filled his head, bending the Grarrl towards her will, but he fought them. Galgarrath pushed them out of his mind, not allowing himself to be overcome. “My heart lies with this land, and I will not allow you, who aren’t even Darigan, to send us to war.” With these words, Galgarrath lunged towards Mistress Haunt.
Recoiling from the guard’s outstretched arms, the dark Cybunny bared her fangs and hissed. Her pleasantries failing her, she resorted to threats. In a harsh voice filled with enmity, she growled, “Then fall with this Citadel, you ignorant fool.” A clang of armor came from inside the citadel. Hearing the other guards rising, Mistress Haunt knew she had no choice but to retreat. “You will pay for this, Grarrl,” and with that, she and her followers vanished.
“Thanks, Galgarrath. I can’t thank you enough for ridding me of those nuisances. Now I can get back to the prisoners.” The Mynci turned to go back inside.
Galgarrath grimaced, then yelled out to stop him. “Master Vex, you’ve been summoned.”
The Mynci appeared faster than he had left, amazement and dread showing in his unscarred eye. “By whom?” he asked in anticipation.
“Lord Darigan requires your services, and I am to take your place watching the prisoners,” he said.
Galgarrath watched as Vex quivered in excitement, then rushed down the stairs. The Grarrl heard the tinkling keys rattle as the Mynci unlocked the door, his hand shaking. The Prison Warden that came out was not the one who had been yelling at a mob just seconds before. He was shocked to his very core.
Ushering Galgarrath inside, Master Vex gave him the keys, and then rushed off. The Grarrl watched him enter the castle, running as fast as his legs would allow. Finally, Galgarrath shut and locked the door, twitching his tail in irritation. All the prisoners ever wanted to do was play Cell Block, which, quite frankly, annoyed Galgarrath to the point of leaving. This time he didn’t have that option. He had to stay there until Master Vex came back, which meant at least an hour of playing those prisoners.
He proceeded down into the jail, looking at each of the captives in turn. They looked healthier than a prisoner should, but that was because Vex took better care of them than himself. Finally, Galgarrath reached the cell where the newest challenger always sat. Inside, though, was something he had never expected to see. A simple yellow Kyrii, leaning against the bars as of nothing was out of place. His tan coat was glistening, which, even by Vex’s standards, is very clean. Dark brown eyes gazed at the approaching Grarrl, appraising him. Galgarrath assumed his stern, unhappy expression, then walked to confront the challenger.
“Are you the newest challenger?” he asked grumpily. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was cheery outside this prison.
The Kyrii laughed aloud. “If by challenger, you mean prisoner arrested for borrowing a few seeds, then yes.”
Galgarrath eyed the Kyrii, and felt as if he should be knocked down a few pegs. “So, by borrowing, you mean stealing, and by seeds, you mean expensive jewelry?” That ought to lower his cocky attitude.
Much to Galgarrath’s anguish, though, the well-groomed Neopet chuckled again. “I wouldn’t say expensive. I don’t steal from the rich. Their security is better.” The figure was already pushing his Grarrl guard over the edge, but Galgarrath composed himself, and said, “Then let us play.”
The board was always set, so Galgarrath sat down, and waited for the prisoner to do the same. Picking up his first piece to place, Galgarrath looked at the board and was surprised. “Where’s my first two pieces?” he exclaimed, and the Kyrii gave a toothy grin.
“Sorry,” he said, and put the pieces back on the board. “Force of habit.”
Galgarrath knew this was an unusual Neopian, so he decided to risk what way make him lose the game completely, or win it without a doubt. “Would you like to change it up?” he asked. “Let’s start out the game in the Diamond Formation.”
To be continued...