Lord Luparn and the Colossal Skeith: Part One
In a distant corner of Meridell, a gentle wind blew through the little village of Crokabek's Caw. It was so remote that very little happened there, not even the Meridell-Darigan war had touched it.
Citrop, an Orange Wocky farmer, was busily inspecting his prize crop of marrows. He gently picked one up, carefully feeling its weight in both hands. "I'd say this one weighs over ten pounds," he said to himself. He watched as the sun sunk over the distant horizon and smiled. Tomorrow was the harvest festival and he was certain his vegetables would do well in the annual competition, perhaps even picking up a few winner's ribbons. He shivered slightly as the heat of the day disappeared with the fading light. Taking one last look at his vegetables, he thought about which he should enter. Size was important, but so was the shape and being free from blemishes. Pondering on that, he headed for his home.
He enjoyed a hearty meal cooked by his wife; it had comprised of vegetables from his own stock, those that he had rejected as too small or improperly formed to enter in a competition, but they were just as tasty as any prize-winner. Along with the vegetables was some tasty bread which his wife had baked just that very morning.
Citrop walked over to his bookshelf. His son Simon, who was a Red Blumaroo, looked up expectantly. Citrop only owned about a dozen books, most of them relating to his profession, everything from the Farmer's Almanac to Growing Better Vegetables. But tonight he settled on a book with a green cover, on the front was the crest of Meridell, and the title "Knights Of Meridell" written in an elaborate script. Simon grinned when he saw what his father had selected.
Citrop settled down in his favourite chair by the fireplace. Simon sat on his father's knee, smiling and enjoying listening to his father tell him all about the many knights in the kingdom and the adventures that they had had. He loved the way his father would 'do the voices' when he told stories.
In the middle of "Lord Luparn and the Quest for the Faerie Mug", the family heard a loud crash outside. Simon jumped off his father's knee, as Citrop rose from his chair. "Stay here," Citrop said in a confident voice, hiding his fear from his family. He headed out of the door, grabbing his pitchfork on the way.
Outside the only light was provided by a gibbous moon, Citrop made his way to his vegetable field. He immediately noticed that the far wall had been smashed down. Then he heard the unmistakable sound of prize winning marrows being eaten. As he made his way across the vegetable plot, he spotted a large Blue Skeith, easily twice the size of most of the species, chomping its way through the vegetables.
Fearful of losing his bumper crop, the Wocky charged towards the beast and with his pitchfork stabbed the monster in its behind. The tool broke into pieces, barely harming the Skeith at all. It turned to Citrop and gave a mixture of a roar and a burp directly into the poor Wocky's face. He struggled for breath as the putrid fumes filled his head. Unable to remain conscious, he slummed to the ground with less grace than a sack of his prize winning potatoes. The Skeith went back to eating the rest of the vegetables before disappearing into the night.
King Skarl sat on his throne and he was bored. He was eating a piece of meat that was dripping with sauce. He wasn't particularly hungry, but wanted something to throw at the court jester, once he had stripped it to the bone (stripped the meat to the bone, not the jester).
"What do you do if fierce Peophins has eaten too much tin of olives?" the jester asked the king.
Skarl sighed heavily; it seemed everyone wanted to tell him that joke. The odd thing was, that although the question was always the same, everyone had their own punch line. The one thing that they had in common was that they were rarely funny. He was just deciding what to throw at the jester for the terrible joke, when a Quiggle Runner sprinted into the throne room carrying a message, he knelt before Skarl, bowing his head and raising his hand so the king could take the missive.
King Skarl tore open the rolled parchment and read the letter. It was from a small village in his kingdom, and told of an attack by a large Skeith that had eaten its way through the village's crops. Skarl was concerned as this was the tenth such message he had received in the last few days. Having finished the meat, he licked his fingers and dropped the bone to the floor, the news making him forget all about the jester and his bad jokes. He summoned his royal advisor. "Let it be known," the king told him, "that whoever defeats the Skeith menacing these villages, will be rewarded 100,000 Neopoints."
As the advisor left to make the proclamation, King Skarl settled back down in his throne.
"What do you do if fierce Peophins has eaten too much tin of olives?" the jester quipped.
Skarl growled and looked around for the bone, but someone had already cleaned it up.
A group of Knights gathered around the reward poster. While they were strictly speaking on the same side, few of them were friends, and there was much elbowing and gentle shoving as each of them read the message.
Lord Luparn was a Green Lupe; his armour was made of hardened steel that had been painted gold, flaunting not only his strength, but also his wealth. His red cape whipped around him as he read the poster. Luparn knew he had to go, not so much for the reward money, although that would be nice, but he had to prove his prowess in battle. It had been too long since his last quest and years since a war. As far as he was concerned, he had little choice but to prove himself again.
Sir Wockilan the Brave studied the poster as well. He was a White Wocky; his armour at one time had been as magnificent as Lord Luparn's, but now it was in desperate need of repair. Unfortunately most of Wockilan's money went into his investigation of Snowbunnies. He was certain this was another attack by the pesky little Petpets. Ever since they had attacked a plot of land at his manor house, he was convinced every problem was caused by them. All of his conspiracy theories pointed that way. The time all of his furniture went missing from his Neohome, somehow the Snowbunnies had stolen it. When the western tower collapsed, the Snowbunnies must have dug out the foundations. And the time an entire roll of toilet paper got used in a day that was the Snowbunnies as well, although even Wockilan couldn't come up with a sound reason why they had needed it in such quantities. He was currently trying to work out why they were hanging around on a grassy knoll near the castle. He thought that perhaps investigating this supposed Skeith attack would provide him with his next clue, if not at least the reward money would help fund his obsession.
Aethia was a Pteri Knight; her feathers shone a brilliant gold and her armour was made of a highly polished iron. The motto of her house was "The early knight gets the wyrm." This dated back hundreds of years, to when an ancestor of hers slew a great wyrm that was threatening the kingdom. Her ancestor had accomplished this by ambushing it at dawn. Aethia had studied military history and tactics, especially those around the dawn attacks favoured by her family. She intended to use this to defeat the Skeith and claim the prize money. She needed the money, since her great-grandfather no-one in her family had proven to be much of a warrior, and the family has lost much as a result. The money would help restore her family to its former status. Not only that, by accomplishing such a dangerous task, she would restore her families honour and make it known as a house of powerful warriors once again.
Sir Cheekalot was the forth Neopet to read the notice; he was a Blue Kacheek. He wore chainmail armour and carried a massive tower shield that was even bigger than he was. His preferred tactic was to hide behind his tower shield, which was an almost unbreakable defense. He would also use the shield to batter his opponents into submission. He needed the reward money to build bigger walls around his estate; he truly believed that the best offense starts with a perfect defense.
Fyrebreaf (pronounced Fire-Breath) was a Draik Paladin. He was yellow in colour and his belief in protecting the innocent was what fueled him. His passion for righteousness was unmatched in the kingdom. His sword was white, made of a metal alloy only known to him, and the Moltaran blacksmith who had crafted it. The grip of the blade had a small strip of black woven on it, almost hidden by the cross-guard. This served as a reminder to Fyrebreaf that evil could hide anywhere. The prize money was irrelevant, doing the right thing and saving innocent lives was what he craved.
Tohkan was a Green Ixi. She was trained in the Lancer division of the Meridell army. Like the rest of her company, she would charge at the enemy with her razor sharp lance pointed at them, taking out as many as she could as she powered through their ranks. The lancers would then turn around in formation and charge the enemy again. If forced into close quarters she could use her sharpened hooves and horns to great effect. She needed the Neopoints so she could set herself up as an independent adventurer, instead of being stuck in the army for the rest of her life. Since there was no war in Meridell at the moment, she should be able to get permission to take some time off from her captain.
The knights eyed each other uneasily. While they were forbidden to fight each other, competition was encouraged to promote ambition and lead to king Skarl having the best knights in Neopia. At least that was the theory. They departed, all of them having their own reason for defeating the Skeith and claiming the prize.
The exact location of the Skeith remained a mystery. Reports were scattered and unreliable and it would be hard to pin him down.
To be continued...