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Cellblock


by fiery_sky

--------

They boggle at me. They wonder why I'm under such tight security. I suppose they have a right to wonder; after all, I am but a timid, undersized Korbat. What on Neopia could I do to escape such tight security? No one would expect me to be able to, and yet, here I am, tied up and chained. Security pays attention to me thrice as much as the other prisoners. Extra precautions are always taken on me.

     I suppose it is true that appearances can be deceiving. All too true. Though lacking in physical strength, I had the mental strength - the brains, the cleverness - to escape, if only I had the opportunity. I know it, and “Lord” Darigan knows it. I could easily escape this prison, if only the guards didn't pay so much attention to me. That is why I am kept under guard the way I am. And yet none of the others suspect what I am capable of. Slightly amusing, to say the least, if not just a little insulting. But I don't mind. I have my own reasons for acting the way I do.

     When I was first captured, I worked day and night to attempt an escape. Of course, I never succeeded. Darigan was too paranoid of me doing exactly what I intended to do. I waited for his paranoia to make him slip up and make a mistake, but it never happened. The fool was too careful, and he'd beaten me.

     Beaten me that round, at least. I don't plan on giving up. After all, I haven't lost until I've given up. Darigan might win most of these trivial rounds, but I shall emerge victorious when the game ends. Just wait and see.

     Ahh, Cellblock? It was my newest method of escape. It didn't work, but it was a very clever plan, you should realize. Hm? Did you want to know my plan? Oh, what? You were informed that Vex invented the game on his own? That is only partly correct. I am the one who planted the idea in his mind. The Warden was always bored out of his mind, see, so, one day, as he was making his rounds, I idly suggested... Oh, I don't know, inventing a game, to pass the time.

     As expected, he was suspicious. “What do you mean, Barallus?” he had asked me, narrowing his eyes.

     “'M just sayin' that maybe a game could help pass the time,” was my response.

     “What sort of game?” Vex acted indifferent, but I could tell he was interested. As I said, he was always bored.

     “I dunno,” I replied simply. “Somethin' we could all do. A board game, maybe?” It is a very delicate process, convincing others. Especially suspicious folks, like our Warden Vex here. And I have to keep up a constant façade. No one realizes quite how clever I can be. If they did, if Vex did, I knew he would never agree to my suggestions.

     Vex had been considering my ideas for a few minutes. “A board game,” he murmured musingly to himself. “Perhaps, perhaps...” He glanced up at me sharply with his usual glaring face, then left without another word. I then knew he was seriously thinking about my suggestion.

     A couple of weeks later, my assumption was confirmed.

     Warden Vex had a simple gridded board and several pebble-like game pieces with him when he called for our attention. “This,” he announced to us prisoners, “is a new game I've invented. It is called... Cellblock.” He looked all of us in the eye.

     Some of the prisoners glanced at each other, but other than that, we were dead silent.

     The quiet was broken by a lunatic of a prisoner, an old Lupe who lacked a name, banging his cane and wheezing out, “No more blocks in Jelly World!”

     I, along with my prisonmates, rolled our eyes at the crazy Lupe's mumblings, because of course Jelly World didn't exist. Rambling fool. Our attention was quickly returned to Vex as he cleared his throat.

     “I will teach you to play,” he informed us. “And anyone who can defeat me... will be freed.”

     I managed to place a look of surprise mingled with suspicion on my visage, but on the inside, I was grinning madly. Just as planned. I knew, I knew Vex would say that. He needed to give us incentive, a reason to play. And this was it. Doubtless he didn't mean the words, but, then again, he wasn't expecting anyone to beat him. I'd prove him wrong soon enough.

     I listened attentively as Vex explained the rules. I observed as he pitted the prisoners against each other, ranking us, making us play to the top. His choice of ranking could be, I suppose, described as logical. Did you want to hear it? You know you could just ask Vex himself. You don't want to approach him? Alright, then.

     Well, at the bottom of the rung was Clop. He was at the bottom for obvious reasons: His communication with us was rather limited, and he wasn't the brightest fellow in the prison. He was a fairly simple character and player. Defeating him would be easy. Next up was me, Barallus the Korbat. Surprise, surprise. I suppose it seems sensible from an outsider's perspective, but it was nothing but an annoyance to me. I then needed to maintain another façade, and make sure I play badly for a length of time. What a bother. Still, I had been patient thus far. There was no reason not to continue. Besides, my low rank, I knew, would give me ample opportunity to observe others' strategies. You have to know your enemy to best your enemy, after all.

     The next prisoner in our ranks is 'Squire' Meekel. One word: wimp. I knew immediately that he would not be a problem. The Yellow Knight, who comes next, would be too reckless to play particularly well, I was sure. Things were looking quite fine for me. There were no problems whatsoever.

     But what I didn't understand was the highest ranked of the prisoners. That crazy old Lupe, as the fifth and last prisoner on the ranking? (If you were unaware - though I don't see how you did not notice - that's why he's now called 'Number Five.') I couldn't fathom how this, this lunatic was assigned the rank he was. No matter. I would defeat him, too, in time.

     The two guards follow Number Five, Galgarrath and Haskol respectively. Then is the Warden, Master Vex himself.

     It was a fine challenge, but I suppose you're waiting for me to go on with my story, yes? Very well.

     Cellblock had been present in our prison for months now. We played constantly, for what else can we do here? Vex had yet to be beaten. Most failed to defeat even the guards. I knew I could. I knew I would. Patience was the key. I had done a careful job of acting like a poor Cellblock player, but I had to get to Vex eventually. I soon thought to myself, I must begin today. That day, I could truly feel myself succumbing to madness, cooped up in this cell, tied up and chained all day. Is this how Number Five went mad? Or did he just come here this way? I wonder.

     But it was clever, oh so clever. I recall thinking, I must defeat Vex, I must. And I must do it soon. I can't hold back anymore.

     “Clop,” I fairly exclaimed to the Moehog, “let us play.”

     Clop.

     I assumed that meant yes and reached for my game pieces.

     The game was short and sweet. I defeated Clop in mere minutes, and left him stomping angrily. My fight with Meekel was just as simple, as was the match against the Yellow Knight. I will admit that Number Five posed more of a challenge - he was too unpredictable. And yet I still beat him in the end.

     I was working too quickly, I knew. I risked destroying my whole plan, I knew. And yet I could not wait anymore. I was impatient. I grew reckless.

     I gloated about my rapid successes as I trounced Galgarrath, and I laughed at Haskol's tantrum when I defeated him.

     And then... I faced him. Vex.

     Vex placed his first piece down. “Now, don't misunderstand,” he said to me coldly. “I am well aware of your scheme.”

     In my confidence, I neither not noticed nor cared. “I will defeat you,” I proclaimed. “And I shall be freed.” I set my own piece down

     The Warden was not impressed. “You shan't leave this prison. Not today, and not ever, unless Lord Darigan wishes it.”

     “You have promised us,” I reminded him fiercely. My pieces clattered as I set them down, reflecting my stormy mood.

     “That I have, that I have,” agreed Vex. “But I am sure that you were aware that I did not mean a word of my vow.”

     True... Why hadn't I considered it? I knew he was lying, but... The plan had seemed so perfect, so foolproof at the time. And now it had a huge, gaping flaw. Vex had been lying. Why didn't I realize? Fueled by anger, I played as recklessly as the Yellow Knight and as unpredictably as Number Five.

     With that nonexistent strategy, you are probably assuming that I lost. But you are forgetting who I am. In the end, I did win.

     Of course, I was not freed, but it was still a triumph for me.

     “You see, Darigan?” I whispered then, “I have won this round. And next time, I shall win our game.”

The End

 
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