Preventing a War: Part Two
The Kyrii gazed at Galgarrath nonchalantly. “Starting a game of Cell Block in the diamond formation goes against all the rules, and no honest Neopian has even heard of it.” He took a breath, then added, “Sure, why not.”
Galgarrath couldn’t help but smile at this. He rearranged the pieces into the correct, illegal position. The uppermost one, belonging to the Kyrii, went to the center left position, the upper-left placement in the normal formation. From there, the second piece of the prisoner’s went downwards diagonal to the left. Galgarrath’s piece, however, went two spaces to the right of this, and his second piece also went diagonal left of his own. The Grarrl looked at the resulting formation with satisfaction. The four pieces formed a diamond, one on each corner, leaving an empty square in the middle. It also meant Galgarrath got to go first, because he commanded the lower pieces.
Placing his first piece, he immediately went just above the prisoner’s rightmost one. The monotonous never expect his plan to build a three-in-a-row in both directions, then place that last piece and have two ways to win. Only sometimes would a newcomer be able to counter it, as well. Galgarrath soaked in his victory, then gaped at the board. The Kyrii had blocked his plan! He had put his piece one space to the right of the Grarrl’s previously placed piece, enabling him to block the next move Galgarrath would have made and leaving him options for the next one. “Impossible,” muttered Galgarrath.
“It isn’t impossible. It’s an obvious move,” replied the Kyrii, his tone already bored. Galgarrath heard the other prisoners’ chains slinking against the bars as they moved to watch. He had to win.
“What’s your name, Kyrii?” Galgarrath asked. This Neopet interested him, of that he was sure. The Grarrl placed his next piece diagonal to the opponent’s original two pieces. Maybe he could make this Kyrii underestimate him.
“I’ll tell you my name if you can beat me,” he said smugly. “Which means, you’ll have to use a much higher skill level.” The Kyrii laughed, frustrating Galgarrath further. He placed the piece below the last one, creating a corner with those two and one of his original.
“And you’re sure you aren’t a challenger?” the now-smiling Grarrl guard asked. His conversation could distract the Kyrii into making a fatal move. He put his move diagonal to the left and downwards to his lowest original piece.
“Of course not. Would someone who spent his life playing Cell Block look so clean?” The Kyrii absentmindedly put his piece next to the last two he had placed.
Knowing there was no way the Kyrii could win now, Galgarrath placed his piece as far to the lower left as possible, creating a diagonal four-in-a-row, with an opening to place the winning piece on either end.
The prisoner, looking as if he had expected it, placed it at one end of the pieces, allowing Galgarrath to place his final, winning piece. The Kyrii cleared his throat.
“As promised, I’ll tell you my name. It’s-”
Suddenly, a crash came from outside. “Tell me in a moment,” he shouted back to the prisoner, and ran to the window previously inhabited by Master Vex.
As he grew closer to the window, he paused. Voices outside were loudly talking, as if he was meant to hear. He stayed to the right of the window, not visible to outsiders, but able to listen to every word they said.
“Galgarrath, is that his name?” It was Mistress Haunt’s enchanting tone of voice.
“Answer me, you foolish Mynci!”
A thud came from outside.
“How about you, Darigan. Will you answer me?”
A muffled noise came in through the window.
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you through the gag.”
Someone spat on the ground, then Lord Darigan spoke.
“I said, why would we help you trick him into-”
Lord Darigan’s voice was cut off.
“Fine, I’ll do it by myself.” Footsteps sounded outside, and Galgarrath heard Mistress Haunt knock on the door, but it was Master Vex’s voice that floated up to him.
“Galgarrath? Are you in there? Lord Darigan is finished with me. You can let me in now.”
Galgarrath tilted his head in confusion, and scratched one of the spines on his back. It sounded like Master Vex, but he knew the wily Warden would never just ask to be let in. He always said something to prove it was him, or called up to the window. This voice was directed at the door, and said nothing to identify itself. Could this evil Cybunny actually make herself sound like another person? The Grarrl knew that he had to find out who was actually talking.
Walking slowly down the stairs, trying to not make any sound, he listened for anything else coming from outside, but it remained quiet. He reached the door, and immediately knew that he should barricade it.
Picking up things to put in front of the door was harder than Galgarrath thought. Many times, he made noises loud enough that they could be heard outside, but nothing else was said. Finally, he judged the entrance to be well enough protected. He assumed his most serious voice, and prepared to speak.
“If you want entrance to this prison, you must speak the password.” Galgarrath knew there was no password, but he was sure anyone other than Master Vex would think there was. Even Lord Darigan didn’t know whether or not there was a password, for he rarely left his chambers.
Soft voices from outside conversed among themselves, then finally grew loud enough for the Grarrl guard to hear. They were berating Master Vex again.
“You didn’t tell us there was a password, foolish Warden. Now, I will remove your gag, and the only words that come out of your mouth should be the ones I need to get into those jail cells.
A hoarse voice, that was barely recognizable as the true Master Vex, croaked, “You have to say ‘I’m not even Darigan, you shouldn’t believe me’ to get into the tower.” The Mynci broke out into a dry cackle, and was silenced seconds later.
Mistress Haunt’s light footsteps echoed on the stone path, and the imitation of Master Vex’s voice proceeded. “There is no password, is there.” It was a statement, not a question, but Galgarrath had heard what he needed. Lord Darigan and Master Vex had been captured!
Galgarrath rushed to the prisoner cells, unable to believe what he had just seen. How could that vile Cybunny capture Lord Darigan, much less Master Vex? What had happened to Haskol? He had been on guard duty when Galgarrath left to fetch Vex, hadn’t he? Could the fearsome Darigan Skeith be defeated so easily? Galgarrath tightened his grip on the ring of keys he carried. This could only mean one thing. Mistress Haunt was going to declare war on Meridell.
Moonlight shone in through the windows high above his head. Galgarrath had to stop this madness, or at least alert Meridell. As far as he knew, all of the guards were captured, and there were only six Neopians in Darigan Citadel that could help him now. The Grarrl lifted the jingling keys to the keyhole, and unlocked each of the cells.
The first cell he unlocked was Meekel’s, and he instantly regretted it. The whiny blue Kacheek immediately fell to his knees and held on to Galgarrath’s legs, crying not to be executed. After spending time he didn’t have convincing Meekel he wasn’t going to be executed, he proceeded to the next prisoner, Barallus.
Echoing sounds from above told the Grarrl that the rebellious mob was beating at the door again. He studied the curious yellow Korbat, wondering why he was chained so tightly. Realizing he needed to be swift, he hurried to unlock all of the restraints surrounding the Neopet, who had been spending his day spinning around, slowly winding his chain farther and farther around. As soon as the Korbat was released, however, he dropped to the ground lightly, and bowed politely to the guard.
“How can he not be dizzy?” Galgarrath wondered to himself as he rushed to the next cell, Clops’. A crack of timber from above echoed around the stone walls. Some of the barricades were giving way! He quickly unchained the mutant Moehog, and received five stomps of the foot. “I really hope that means thank you,” muttered the Grarrl, and turned away from Clops’ red eyes to face the Yellow Knight.
Though he was in a hurry, this was the one prisoner Galgarrath feared might overpower him. The Chia had aged from his years of imprisonment, and barely responded to any guards’ voice. The sound of opening chains, however, had awoken him.
“Why do you free us, Darigan guard? Something must be wrong indeed for you not to question your decision.”
Galgarrath nodded, sure that he had nothing to fear from the Knight if his intentions were good. He unlocked the cell door and proceeded to the chains before answering his question. “Mistress Haunt, Lady of the Halloween Cybunnies, has come to destroy our strong Citadel.” The chains clanged to the floor, and the hairy Chia struggled to his feet.
“And she plans to do this by creating war with Meridell, doesn’t she?” said the ex-prisoner.
Galgarrath nodded again. “You are wiser than your predicament suggests, fellow warrior. Will you help defend my citadel, if only for the sake of your own land?”
The Yellow Knight nodded, and at that moment, an even louder thump sounded from above. “They almost are in!” exclaimed Galgarrath, and ran to Number Five. He quickly unlocked everything, not expecting the Lupe to say anything of importance, then continued to the newest prisoner’s cage.
“We need to escape, now,” he said, and motioned for the prisoners to come inside the Kyrii’s cell. He freed the Kyrii from his fettering leg chains, and went to the darkest corner of the cell.
Pulling aside the bench allotted to every prisoner, he pushed as hard as he could against the stone. It groaned as it gave way, revealing a staircase that went even further into the depths of Darigan’s floating platform. He turned, pushing each prisoner in.
Finally, the last prisoner remaining was Number Five. The grey, wrinkled Lupe stood there, staring with his crazy eyes at the guard who had so kindly freed him, and shook his head. “I shall stay and guard Jelly World,” he said proudly, motioning at the passage. Galgarrath looked at the prisoner sadly, knowing he lost one of the most cunning of the six. He turned away, entered the staircase, and slowly pushed the hidden door closed.
Through the cracks in the wall, he heard a final boom from the entryway. Mistress Haunt had made it into the prison.
“You shall not harm Jelly World!” shouted Number Five, and the Lupe banged his staff against something, creating a thud.
“Ouch,” said one of the mob, and stumbling footsteps told Galgarrath that he had retreated.
“Don’t just stand there, get him,” screeched Mistress Haunt. Two sets of footsteps ran forward, followed by two more whacks with the wooden cane.
“You are only allowed one jelly a day,” growled the Lupe. “Do not take more than is needed.”
Finally, five stomping footsteps approached the Lupe, and Galgarrath heard the staff fall to the ground. Unable to hear any more, he turned and walked down the steps to the other prisoners.
Galgarrath missed the crazy Lupe already. He may have an insane belief in the nonexistent, but he was smart, and he fought to the end. As he reached the last step, he gazed out at the five other Neopets in the dim light. Clops’ war-torn body and broken tusk were emphasized by the shadows; Barallus’ reddish wings appeared black, his wild-eyes hidden; Meekel’s pitiful stance and watery eyes, however, weren’t very encouraging.
Finally, he gazed at the Yellow Knight, and the tan-furred Kyrii. He had a feeling that they might be the difference in this battle. The Kyrii’s golden hair shone from what little moonlight made it into the dark tunnel.
Walking slowly down the shady tunnel, Galgarrath kept one arm on the wall. He had only traveled through the tunnels once before, and Master Vex had been guiding him. Going through the underground passages in the dark scared him. Luckily, this tunnel led directly to the castle.
“I still wish we had light,” whispered the Grarrl.
Suddenly, from somewhere behind him, a flame appeared, pushing back the shadows. Galgarrath turned to see the source, and gaped in amazement. Barallus was holding, in his palm, fire.
“You’re a spellcaster?” asked Galgarrath, and he heard others echo his question. Barallus gave a slight shake of his head, then spoke in a light, gentle voice that filled the tunnel. “Before my imprisonment, I only knew a few spells and tricks. But Darigan thought that I might be able to free myself, so he had me tightly bound. Over the years, I’ve created a few more spells than I had, and practiced them during my sentence.”
Galgarrath counted himself lucky. He at least had some magic on his side!
The trip through the tunnel went a lot faster, thanks to Barallus They made it to the other end within fifteen minutes, at least half the time it would have taken them before. Galgarrath signaled for them to be quiet, then moved slowly up the steps.
They reached a hidden door not unlike the one in the prison, and the Grarrl pushed it open slowly, looking for any sign of Mistress Haunt, but he saw none. Glimpsing a body on the floor, he didn’t hesitate any longer. Galgarrath burst through the door and ran to the Darigan Skeith that lay there.
“Haskol, are you ok?” he asked quietly, shaking the guard awake. The other prisoners came up behind him, gazing at the unconscious Neopet.
Galgarrath watched in silence, hoping that Haskol would wake up, but he didn’t even blink his eyes. The Grarrl dropped his head sadly. The Skeith would have known what to do. Galgarrath grabbed Haskol’s arm, preparing to drag him with them, but the Yellow Knight stopped him.
“It is better to leave your opponent thinking you didn’t see anything, than to reveal you know when you can’t do anything to stop it.”
Galgarrath nodded, realizing the helpfulness of Cell Block advice in a time like this. He dropped his fellow guard, and stood up straight. “Mistress Haunt will pay for this, and I will stop this war, no matter what.”
“So, where do we go now?” questioned the Kyrii. He looked almost as bored as he had during the game.
“Our only hope is to tell the remaining Darigans who don’t follow Mistress Haunt yet. If that fails, we will be forced to retreat to Meridell.”
To be continued...