Sometimes, a Daridell Aisha stands at the edge of the Citadel, thinking of things that might have been. Her robes are those of a Daridell spellmage, first class, and around her neck is the studded collar favored by her kind. Nothing shows what once was.
She turns, determined to go somewhere she has not gone in a while.
In the hall, her polished claws click on the stone floor. She nods to Lissa, the Ixi Courtier, as they cross paths. Then she turns, and disappears from sight. King Darigan is a good teacher.
Down she goes, into the bowels of the Citadel. The dungeon guards do not see her pass, and she continues into the lowest level unmolested.
The last cell there is occupied, even though it looks empty. She knows the secret.
She enters, not bothering to open the door. Inside, lines of magic fire cover the entrance. She presses one stone, and another door swings open.
A Daridell Lupe rushes her. Everyone is Daridell now, seeing how Daridell's influence covers Neopia. She raises one hand, immobilizing the Lupe, then lets it drop. The Lupe drops onto the floor.
He looks up, growling.
She walks over.
Her hand makes contact with his in a flash of light.
He arises, looking at her.
She walks over to the shield on the wall. The shield of two lands, it is called. Daridell uses it as a shield, elements of two different shields from a long time ago. The Aisha spins the radiating metal spikes in a pattern, and it slides away, revealing a compartment. The Lupe looks at her in wonder.
The Aisha turns and walks out. Exiting the dungeons, her invisibility fades, and she continues down the corridors, her footsteps reverberating in the empty corridors.
Down below, the Lupe looks into the safe. inside, there is only a note. On the note, there are only two words.
He flips the note over. On the back is a child's drawing of a tall blue Lupe in armor, a long sheath holding the rune-covered sword of the King's Champion.
I drew this before the last battle, the caption reads. Keep the memory alive.
He unfolds the note, revealing four more drawings. A green Quiggle, holding his first real sword. A blue Blumaroo with plastic vampire fangs and a cape. A red Zafara with a starry hat, holding a bottle of her finest and only work- a syrup that enlarged Turtums. A yellow Aisha with red glasses, her cardboard armor surprisingly sturdy, her homemade wand in hand.
Morris, Boris, Kayla, and me. I'm not sure how good the drawing of me was.
Another layer, with another drawing. This one shows a potbellied blue Skeith king, sitting on his throne.
Skarl. I think I drew him extra fat.
A last fold reveals the true size of the paper. The largest picture yet shows the armies of Meridell. Ixi archers, Draik Knights, peasants of every description with potatoes ready to throw...
I don't know why I drew these. I felt like I should. Maybe something in me knew that all of this would be gone, and that I had to preserve it.
He folds the paper again, tears in his eyes. He looks longest at the first drawing before putting the paper in his pocket and closing the safe. He opens the door with little effort. He is ready to show the world how a hero dies.
At the top of the steps, an Aisha waits. They have one destination in mind, and they are going to find it before anyone can stop them.
Once, there was an Aisha. She was brave, and she fought with her magic for what was right. But she loved her brother, and that was her undoing.
Once, there was a Lupe. He was brave, and he fought with his sword for what was right. But he loved his sister, and that was his undoing.
Once, Lisha, Champion of Meridell, did all she could for what she loved.
Once, Jeran, Champion of Meridell, did all he could for what he loved.
Once, brother and sister, they fought together, laughed together, lived together.
But they fell together, and that was their undoing.
Once upon a time, Jeran Borodere fell into the past and became a knight of Meridell.
Once upon a time, his sister Lisha followed him.
Once upon a time, Jeran fought for Meridell.
Once upon a time, Lisha fought with him.
Once upon a time, Jeran was willing to sacrifice everything for Lisha.
Once upon a time, Lisha was willing to sacrifice everything for Jeran.
Once upon a time, Jeran gave up to save Lisha.
Once upon a time, Lisha gave up to save Jeran.
But all of these things were once upon a time.
Not so long ago, an Aisha and a Lupe ran.
Not so long ago, they looked down on Daridell below, and thought of a time when there were fields, and they were green.
Not so long ago, they remembered how far down it was.
Not so long ago, they jumped.
Not so long ago, an empire fell apart because it had lost it's prime enforcer.
Not so long ago, people began to remember what once was, and what could be.
Not so long ago, sister and brother taught us that some things are worth more than your life.
Somewhere, sometime, an Aisha and a Lupe are together.
Somewhere, sometime, someone has decided to give them a second chance.
A chance to fight.
A chance to laugh.
A chance to live.
A little bit ago, not so far away, Lisha sat in a field with Sally, braiding daisy chains and taking a day off for once. Darigan was a very demanding teacher sometimes! Still, he was nice, and he taught her well. She was as welcome in the Citadel as in Meridell, and she was happy. Her Zebie, Flor, hopped by as a blue shape grew on the horizon.
Over the meadow he ran, bounding up to Lisha and enfolding her in a hug.
Sally snuck up behind him and put a crown of flowers on his head.
"I hereby proclaim you King Jeran of Daisy Hill!"
"That makes her Queen Lisha!"
"And you have to be Princess Sally! We are all family, after all!"
Laughing, the three on them play in the meadow. Sally's parents, sadly, had died in the First Darigan-Meridell war. Orphaned Sally had lived with her relatives, where she had found Darigan. She brought him back to health, and he protected her when Kass sent solders against the farm. Jeran and Lisha had welcomed her as a sister, and Darigan now acts as guardian and teacher for them all. Galgarroth and Jeran can often be found in the Darigan practice yard, sparring with wooden swords. Lisha sits up in Darigan's tower and studies magic, while Sally plays with the Darigan children in the Citadel courtyard. They are happy, not remembering that it was not always so, that time is so malleable that in the infinite multiverse, one person, one decision, can change everything.
Somewhere out there, there is something, someone, who gives second chances to those who deserve it. Who knows who or what, but someone makes sure that there is a different way to go, a happier life. She is the keeper of the Sacred Grove, High Lady of the Forest. She watches over the souls, and decides when one of them should get a second chance.
In the fields of Meridell, Lisha plays with her brother and Sally. The Citadel hangs in the sky, beginning to flourish as Lisha and Darigan work free spells turned to curses by the destruction of the orb. Knights from both lands fight in practice yards rather than battlefields, and children playing together discover more and more that they have in common. Above them all, the wind rustles through the trees as their laughter fades into the sunset.