The Sorceress and the Prisoner: Part Two
The warm, sweet calling voice of his younger sister woke Jeran from his dreams. He couldn't remember exactly what his dream had been, only that he had felt alone, then shook the thought from his mind. To his surprise he had woken up in the courtyard, with Lisha's face hovering above him, a huge grin on her face. He groaned then playfully pushed her away and sat up. It was a wonderfully sunny day, with a beautiful blue sky and a gentle light breeze. How had he fallen asleep here? Perhaps he had been too tired from his late night visit to Lord Darigan to find his bed and had given up.
Which reminded him! He needed to report the visit. He stood up quickly, then staggered slightly at the sudden head rush. “Sorry, Lisha, I need to go and tell King Skarl about my visit yesterday,” he told her, resulting in an eye roll from the Aisha. “I cannot believe I fell asleep here.”
“You're so tired nowadays. Won't you ever realise that you don't have to work all the time?” Lisha sighed, studying her brother closely and adjusting her glasses. “It's only ten in the morning, you can afford a break.”
This, however, only alarmed Jeran more. “Ten in the morning?!” He yelped, breaking into a run.
“I'll talk with you later, Lisha! Sorry!” He called over his shoulder as he entered the castle.
The castle. Meridell Castle, home to King Skarl and his many knights and enchanters. It was large (though not as impressive as Lord Darigan's palace) with bright red turrets, made from strong stone lined with gold. There was a huge treasure room of gold that had turned into a source amusement for the Skeith that guarded it. More money went in there from his game than anything else. Unlike Lord Darigan, King Skarl welcomed visitors into his castle every day, and many attempted to make him laugh. If they succeeded – they were rewarded well. If they failed – well, they rarely came back for more. King Skarl ruled over Meridell in a lazy manner. The people could basically do what they wanted, but this seemed to work. It was a wonderful place to live.
Jeran and his younger sister Lisha both lived here in the castle. Lisha was a yellow Aisha, with thick, round red glasses that allowed her to see through enchantments. Because of this, she had since become a sorceress for the castle, protecting the king. It was an honour, and she was very proud, but unlike her brother, knew when to take a break. Jeran was widely considered the greatest knight in Meridell, perhaps even the world of Neopia besides King Altador himself. This was the Lupe Jeran looked up to the most and he as well as his sister was proud of the title given to him: The King's Champion. This was a most prestigious title to be given and he didn't take his reward lightly. Every day he was out training to be better, just incase anything ever happened. He was naturally suspicious, but took care not to let anyone else realise this. He was older and wiser than he was before, but every now and then he would have a flair of his old childlike self and wish to play Hide and Seek with his sister like they used to.
As Jeran entered the King's throne room, he bowed low, his knees touching the marble floor.
“King Skarl,” he greeted the Skeith. “I am here to deliver my report of my conversation with Lord Darigan yesterday. I apologise for being late in doing so.”
The king sniffed indignantly. “Nevermind. Rise. What was said?”
“There was a disagreement,” Jeran admitted. “But he confirmed he was not thinking of war, although he did mention he would never be honest in telling me if he ever did change his mind.”
He told the king exactly what was said at the meeting, then waited for his dismissal.
“None of that was really useful.” King Skarl grumbled, settling himself in a more comfortable position on his elaborate throne. “He could be changing his mind or he could be teasing you.”
He exhaled deeply, thinking carefully. His brother, King Hagan, was far better at figuring out things than he was, though he would never dream of asking for help from him. That would damage his pride. “I doubt these visits have done more than rile him all these years. Next month will be your last one.” Seeing Jeran's stunned expression, he added, “It's been a decade, Sir Borodere. We have to show him we trust him at some point.
“But, your Majesty...” Jeran protested feebly. “I can't help thinking that now is the time he would strike, when we least expect it.”
King Skarl scowled. “Are you daring to go against what I am saying? Get out of the room before I say something I regret.” His temper had gotten the better of him and Jeran knew it would be wise to leave now, so he did, hearing the king mutter angrily to himself under his breath.
Jeran leaned back against the cold stone wall of the hallway, closing his eyes. He stood there for a few minutes, relaxing, before opening his eyes once more and going to find his sister.
Lisha, having assumed her brother had gone off to train, walked through Meridell instead of talking to him. The crisp, Spring breeze ruffled her skirt and the flowers on the grass around her.
She played a quick game of Cheese Roller before settling down with a picnic she had packed earlier (made for two, but as Jeran wasn't here she wasn't one to waste good food) and eating a sandwich. Every now and then someone walked by and waved to her, but she had chosen a relatively quiet spot to sit and eat, behind the large hill used for Cheese Roller and directly below where Darigan Citadel floated. She stared up at it now, realising she had never actually set foot inside Lord Darigan's palace. Jeran described it as marvellously evil, and she couldn't help but wish to see what it was like. She was a naturally curious girl, but knew well enough what curiosity did to the Meowclops.
A while later, just as she was finishing her share and was about to start on Jeran's, she saw a hooded figure walk towards her from a distance away. She squinted slightly as she tried to work out who it was (for her eyesight was not the best when looking at things from far away) then relaxed as she saw it was Galgarroth, though she felt a little perplexed as to why he was down here in Meridell. Had something happened to Lord Darigan? She stood up and waved at the Grarrl to come closer.
“Thank goodness, Lisha!” Galgarroth exclaimed, hurrying towards her. “You are a sorceress, are you not? You should know some spells, yes?”
Lisha nodded. “What has happened, Galgarroth?” She inquired. “I can go back to the castle to get my books and alert the others –”
Galgarroth shook his head. “No, there is no time for any of that. It is Lord Darigan. He has taken ill with a deadly disease and needs your assistance right now. Quickly, I have two Darigan Eyries waiting for us to take us up to the fortress. We must hurry before it is too late!”
Sensing the panic in his voice, Lisha knew this was serious. Her natural instinct to help others in their time of need kicked in. “Lead the way,” Lisha told Galgarroth. “I can assess what needs to be done from Lord Darigan's symptoms.”
They hurried towards the two Darigan Eyries, then flew up to Darigan Citadel. Once they landed, Lisha couldn't help feeling a little excited she was setting foot in Darigan Citadel and then walking into Lord Darigan's palace. It was just as Jeran had described, but this was no time to admire the décor. With Galgarroth walking hastily in one direction, she followed him quickly. They were walking downwards, down a spiral staircase. The lower they got, the colder the air was. Lisha felt a little uneasy suddenly. Galgarroth paused on a stair, as if sensing this. He turned – and grabbed Lisha's glasses from her face, then snapped them in half.
The moment this happened was so fast Lisha couldn't quite believe what he had done. Her vision blurred and she couldn't see past a few feet even a tiny bit. She held out a hand to feel for the stone wall, and realised she had made a terrible mistake. Jeran had told her enough times he didn't trust Darigan Citadel yet. She was the only one he confided in, but she brushed aside his doubts and told him he had to learn to be more forgiving.
“Galgarroth?” Lisha mumbled, stepping forward cautiously, forgetting she was on a staircase.
She tumbled downwards, but was caught roughly on the arm by who she could only assume was the Grarrl. “What is the meaning of this?” She cried, sensing she was in real danger now.
“Where is Lord Darigan?”
A cold, triumphant voice travelled across the spiralled stairs and into Lisha's ears, sending shivers down her spine. “I'm right here, Lisha. I've been waiting for you.”
* * *
Think fast! Lisha had to think fast. She was renowned for her clever and quick thinking, but, powerless without her sight, and hopelessly outnumbered, she couldn't come up with a plan that would work. Galgarroth still had hold of her arm. She tried shaking it off but failed. “What do you want from me?” She demanded, trying not to show the fear in her voice.
Lord Darigan sighed deeply. “You were the easiest to target. My main aim is to use you as a reason Meridell will be reluctant to fight, but if that fails, I have another reason too...” He paused, wondering whether or not to reveal his plan right away like some amateur villain. “That will be made aware to you later on, however. Be sure to anticipate another visit from me.”
“Why are you doing this? What happened to the truce?” Lisha asked in desperation.
“The truce?” Lord Darigan laughed, a hollow laugh. “That uneasy, unstable, pathetic truce we decided on ten years ago? It was clear that was never going to work. Meridell never trusted Darigan Citadel again, and your brother made sure we knew that. King Skarl was always going to have his revenge one day. He stole from me what made Darigan Citadel a wonderful place to live. Darigan Citadel used to be a prosperous, promising area. King Skarl was jealous of our success, and he stole the powerful orb from me. Darigan Citadel went to ruin, and everyone turned into a hideous being...including myself. This spell has never been lifted. The orb cracked in half and made itself worthless from this. The orb is the only thing that can revert Darigan Citadel back to what it was, and it cannot do that as of yet. King Skarl...he stole that orb as a selfish act. He needs to be told stealing is wrong, and justice will be served.”
Lisha shook her head, trying to think. She had known King Skarl had done this, but hearing Lord Darigan's side to it had made the king's act seem more arrogant and terrible than before. “War is not the answer to that!” She pleaded. “Neither is kidnapping me. What are you hoping to achieve? The orb isn't coming back. Remember, you tried this before!”
“I was influenced and corrupted by The Three back then. I am my own person now, and I have decided enough is enough. Back then, there was a chance of stealing the orb back. Now, I just want my revenge.” Lord Darigan frowned, remembering the last outcome clearly. “I have not forgotten what happened back then. That is why I have you. Sir Borodere will never let any harm come to his little sister, and he is Meridell's greatest knight.” There was a moment of silence. “He does not realise you will help me achieve what I have always wanted, and become an accomplice to what will be the downfall of Meridell. Oh,” he added the last part as if as an afterthought. “Don't try to cast any spells around here or in the cells. There's a magical barrier around this place that forbids any spells to be cast. Incase you were going to attempt to kill me.”
“I would never do anything like that.” Lisha insisted, though her voice trembled slightly. Just how had everything gone so wrong in a matter of half an hour? What would happen now? Would the two areas go to war once more? What would the outcome be this time? Why was she going to be an accomplice? So many questions ran through Lisha's head, but none she could answer. She could only wait it out and see what was happening.
She was thrown into a cell, guarded by Master Vex, who did nothing more than close her cell door and walk away, challenging another prisoner to a game of Cell Block. Galgarroth did not speak again, though she heard his loud, heavy footsteps sounding back up the stairs. Lord Darigan swiftly followed, though he left her with a goodbye message that chilled her bones to the soul.
She was stuck in this damp, freezing cell, without anyone knowing where she was, and she didn't know what was going to happen to her. But it was what Lord Darigan said that scared her the most out of anything that had just happened. He had clearly gone mad with power once more, but this time, there was no one else to pin the blame on. It was Lord Darigan, and no one else.
He smirked and told the frightened yellow Aisha, “Consider the next time you see the light of day your last, unless King Skarl is willing and cowardly enough to give himself up.”
The sudden change in his behaviour shocked Lisha. Jeran had always noted he was impeccably tactful, despite their differences, and swore no war would ever come again, though Jeran never quite believed the latter. She should have listened to her brother, but no, she thought she was the smarter of the two and could decide for herself what to believe when she hadn't seen Lord Darigan since he was corrupted!
What a mistake she had made.
To be continued…