Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 171,606,722 Issue: 178 | 18th day of Awakening, Y7
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The Tale of Tadric's Time: Part One

by sharakh


The door to 223377 Bread Street slammed shut as Msomari the mutant buzz stormed into his home. With a snarl, he tossed a bag to the red Gelert lounging on the sofa. "Dinner, your Majesty," he snapped as he shed his knapsack.

     Friskitorius looked up from the book he was leafing through, ignoring the tantalizing smell of omelette from the bag. "Something wrong, Mso? You're not your normal, cheerful self."

     Msomari stared at his roommate for a moment, trying to determine whether or not he was being sarcastic . . . until he remembered that his bubbly buddy didn't understand the meaning of the word. "Have you been outside lately? There's no end to the fuzz heads singing the praises of Jeran, that long gone knight of Meridell. Every so often there's an upsurge of it . . . it's sickening." He let out a derisive snort as he slumped unceremoniously into a beanbag chair.

     "Aw, Mso, it's not so bad," Friski replied with a smile. "They probably like Jeran 'cause he was someone to look up to, y'know? The knights of Meridell were pentagons of virtue-"

     "Paragons. Paragons of virtue. They were not five-sided shapes."

     The Gelert shrugged. "Whatever. What I'm saying is that Jeran's a role model. There's nothing wrong with that." He paused a moment, then tapped the book he'd been looking at with a paw. "Y'know, one of my ancestors was a knight, too!" Friski grinned.

     Msomari looked up from his brooding, one hand fingering the hexagonal medallion around his neck. "I was wondering why you were reading. Looking through a family tree?"

     "Naw. This is a history book. I got bored of reading it -- it's about the wars in Meridell and all, lotta strategy and stuff. But I found a picture of my ancestor!" He pointed to the open page, showing a woodcut print of a fierce Gelert in armor wielding a sword. "See? Sir Tadric! I've heard stories of Sir Tadric since I was a pup. Brave and bold, they told me he was, defending good folk from the opposing forces, and . . . um, Mso, what's wrong now?"

     The buzz had gone very still, his eyes boring into Friskitorius, one hand clenched around the silvery medallion. "Those are. . . interesting stories you heard, Friski. Are you sure they're true?"

     "Well . . ." For a moment, Friskitorius's cheery countenance faltered. ". . .no, but it's in the history book, isn't it? I mean, sure, it doesn't say I'm his descendant, but it could be true. And, sure, I don't have thumbs like he did, but . . I've seen other Gelerts like that, so . . ." Slowly, Friski's ears drooped and his face fell.

     An exasperated sigh escaped Msomari as he massaged his temples. "I can't stand to see you like that. Friski, would it help if I told you that I know for a fact Tadric lived? That he was a knight? And that you are indeed related to him?"

     Friskitorius's head canted to one side, one ear perking up. "How do you know?"

     "Well, I suppose I had to tell you sometime." Mso stood and held out the silver, six-sided medallion for his friend to see. "Do you know what this is?"

     The Gelert nodded. "It's the medal you wear around your neck. Did you win it at the Tombola or something?" He smiled; winning useful things at the Tombola was always a highlight of his day.

     "Wh- g- NO, I did NOT win it at the Tombola!" Msomari spluttered, indignant. He took a deep breath and withdrew his hand, resting the medallion on his chest once more. One claw traced the elegant insect-like carving on its face. "This is my badge of office, Friskitorius. I am a guardian."

     "Ooookay . . . what do you guard? Besides the cocoa juppies, that is. You keep bringing them home and I only want one, Mso, just one! Can I have something besides the stinky omelette-"

      "FRISKITORIUS T. GELERT!" Msomari bellowed. "Be serious for a moment!" The buzz drew himself up, folding his arms across his chest. "Ever since I was small, I've worn this medallion, seeking the one I was charged to guard. Some time ago, I finally found him, and I've been guarding him ever since . . . living in the same house, enduring his more irritating traits . . . ."

     Friski perked up further. "Wow! How come I've never met this lucky Neopet?! Do you keep him in the attic? What's his name?"

     Shutting his eyes in frustration, Msomari put a hand over his face and hissed, "You, you idiot. I'm guarding you. And the legacy of your forebears."

     "Why would you need to guard me, Mso? I'm fine! And I don't know about any legacy." He slid off the couch onto all fours, stretching.

     "I've been guarding it from you for some time. Now that you've learned of Tadric, though, I don't think I can keep it from you any longer." Wearily, he trudged to the door leading to the backyard. "Follow me, Friski. I'll show you what is rightfully yours."

     Confused and terribly curious, Friskitorius followed his silent friend through the rooms of their NeoHome. His mind was bursting with questions for his companion, but he kept quiet; Msomari seemed so tired and resigned. Too, he'd made Mso angry, and asking more questions would no doubt make it worse. On silent feet, he padded along dutifully behind the buzz as he pushed open the door to the backyard.

     "The answers are in the tower," Mso murmured, gesturing to the solitary stone structure rising up on a grassy hill. It was a solid tower made of some dark stone, ivy creeping up around its base. No windows were visible along the walls with the exception of arrow slits at the top. It appeared to be taken straight out of a page from a Meridell story. When Friski had inherited the simple NeoHome plot in Neopia Central, the tower had been there, a stark contrast to the bright and cheery homes around it. As the years passed, the tower went from conversation piece to simple fact of life; there was a tower in the backyard, it was locked, and had resisted all attempts to open it. It was of no more use than a rock. Now, however, things were bound to changeā€¦

     Friski trailed as Msomari approached the ironbound wooden door. There was no visible handle, only a small, hexagonal plate with an intricate design on it. Wordlessly, the buzz pressed his medallion to the plate, and the door clicked open. The hinges creaked in protest at their first use in years as he pushed it aside. Mso picked up a bottled light faerie left on a stool just inside and started up the dusty, winding staircase.

     The Gelert gawked as he climbed. All along the staircase were paintings of the same Gelert he'd seen in the history books: a white knight in dark armor fighting off various monsters and bands of ruffians. Every picture showed a different battle. Strangely, though, there were no Meridell flags or tabards, no insignias of allegiance of any kind . . . his train of thought was promptly derailed, however, by the huge cloud of dust kicked up as he bumped into Msomari's unmoving back. Friski started sneezing uncontrollably.

     When the sneezing died down and the dust and tears at last cleared from his eyes, Friskitorius found himself standing in the doorway of a circular room. Msomari was sitting on a rickety stool to one side, watching him thoughtfully, the faerie bottle placed in an alcove to his right to provide light to the small chamber. His eyes were slowly drawn to the central object in the room, however: a large chest, made of the same stone as the tower. Its surface was smooth, showing no mark of a chisel; its construction reeked of magic. The chest had been locked similarly to the tower door, but Mso had already used his medallion on the mechanism. It lay there, cracked open, calling to him.

     "Go ahead. It's yours to open," Msomari said, leaning forward.

      Tentatively, Friski stepped forward and, working his front paws under the heavy lid, opened the chest. Within gleamed a familiar set of armor. It was crafted of some dark metal with a peculiar purple luster. The light barely caught the edges of the complicated runic designs etched into its surface. All the pieces seemed to be there: a breastplate of overlapping, chevron-shaped plates; similarly-patterned greaves; simple sollerets; sharp-looking pauldrons with a yellowed horn set into the middle of each; and on top of it all, a set of bracers. Paws resting against the lip of the chest, Friskitorius gazed admiringly at the selfsame armor that Tadric had been wearing in the portraits.

     His brow furrowed, and he looked to the mutant buzz sitting nearby. "This is my legacy, Mso?"

     "Yes, Friski. That is the armor of Sir Tadric." A wry smile came to his fanged face. "I know you want to try it on - your face is an open book. Go ahead."

     "But, uh, Mso . . ."

     "What's wrong?" Msomari asked, a little irritably.

     Friski looked down at the armor, then at himself. "Well, Mso, this looks to be made for someone who walks on two feet, not four. I don't see how I'd be able to fit in it!"

     "Just try it. Stranger things have happened."

     Carefully, Friskitorius lifted the bracers out of the chest with his teeth and started trying to put them on. Without opposable thumbs, however, this was no easy task. After watching his friend struggle for a few moments, Msomari rose to his feet and buckled the bracers on Friski's forelimbs.

     A strange, dark glow suffused the bracers as Mso took his hands away. Slowly the glow crept over the very alarmed Gelert until he was enveloped in darkness. "Msoooo, what's happening?!" Friski whispered urgently, ears standing straight up in fear. The buzz said nothing, however; he seemed as surprised as Friskitorius himself.

     As quickly as the glow appeared, it left the Gelert, leaving him largely unchanged, except . . . Cautiously, Friski pushed upward and stood on two feet. It seemed more comfortable, natural; his heels rested on the ground as if born to it. And his forepaws . . . he held them up to his face for inspection, as they felt different.

     Then he realized why.

     "I have thumbs . . . ?" Friski murmured. Then, in a voice that could wake the Turmaculus, "I HAVE THUMBS!" Gleefully he grabbed Msomari and swung him around until the flustered buzz freed himself from his friend's grip.

     Mso groaned softly and shook his head. "No good can come of this . . ." Still, he helped Friski don the rest of the armor, piece by piece, until at last he looked like a perfect, if red-furred, double of the Gelert from ages past. The mutant stepped back, hand to his chin, and took in the effect. He had to admit there was something noble about his often simpleminded friend when encased in the ancient armor. The wide-eyed stare as Friski looked into the chest somewhat dampened the whole thing, though. "What are you looking at now?" Mso growled.

     Slowly, Friski reached into the chest and pulled out a sheathed sword, still attached to the sword belt. He buckled it on and drew the weapon reverently, laying the blade across his new palm. "Wow," he breathed. While the armor was very lightly etched with runes, the sword had similar runes etched deep within its blade, and they seemed to glow blue in their depths when viewed out of the corner of one's eye. The silver handguard was sculpted to look like a pair of snarling Gelert heads, and the purple pommel stone had two silver Gelert tails entwined around it. In the center of the hilt, though, where it met the blade, there was a very familiar six-sided design.

     "Hey, Mso! It looks like your medal can fit in the sword, too!" he exclaimed.

     "What?" the buzz replied, peering at the hilt quizzically. "I don't remember reading about that . . ."

      Friski winked and snatched the medallion, pulling Mso close. "Let's try it and see what happens!"

     "Wait, Friski, I'm not so sure that's sm-" Msomari started, trying to push the sword away, but there was newfound strength in Friskitorius's limbs. Excited, the Gelert clicked the medallion in place on the hilt of the sword.

     Instantly, buzz, Gelert and sword were surrounded by a bright, swirling light. The room disappeared around them, leaving them adrift in the sparkling morass.

     "Did the light faerie get out or something?!" Friski asked, frantic.

     "This is NO blessing, Friski!" Mso snapped in response.

     In seconds, the world snapped back into focus . . . but they were no longer in the small, dusty tower room. Dry grass crunched underneath foot and paw as the duo took in their surroundings. They were on a windswept plain, broken weapons and armor strewn about, battle standards of both Meridell and Darigan torn and fading in the sun, huge stone wheel grinding quickly forward . . .

     "Out of the way!" Mso yelled, shoving Friski to the side as he took flight. The beast pulling the contraption didn't blink an eye as it plodded onward, the gargantuan Darigan war machine cutting deep ruts in the earth. Msomari landed by the stunned Gelert and helped him to his feet.

     "We've gone and done it now," he grumbled. "Somehow, we've ended up in Meridell . . . during the war between King Skarl and Lord Kass!"

To be continued...

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