The Book of the Twelve:Part Seven
VII-I. Gyn-Marg, the Knight
Gyn-Marg was a wizard who used her abilities to augment weapons that she used in battle. In an age where most Neopets fought with wands and magic, she was one of the few that favoured the bladed combat that would become the fashion in the millennia to follow. Gyn-Marg was a child of Kal Panning, in the south, but left her home to travel the land as a knight errant.
Throughout her travels, she kept her innate sense of right and wrong close to heart, using her magical weapons to firmly end any battles she came across. When she met Jahbal the Just, she felt an instant connection and pledged herself to his cause. When that cause became the Great Empire, she was invited to the Circle of Twelve and given charge of the Empire’s armies.
The cry pierced the ears of the young Kougra as she tried to pick herself up from the dirt of the training grounds.
Across from her, her master swing his half blade effortlessly. As effortlessly as he had just beat her.
“If you cannot master the simple weapons of war, what hope have you of commanding the more complex?” the Nimmo asked her. “And then, what use would you be in defending Kal Panning? What use would you be to any of us?”
She hissed at him. Joining the Kal Panning army had been her dream for as long as she could remember. Defending her home from those who would wish it ill.
She set her jaw and readied her sword. Assume the stance.
“Good!” the Nimmo said. “Good! A warrior is only truly beaten when he is dead! Come!”
She rushed at him, timing her strikes as she had been trained. It was the movement of a skilled sword master. A honed and sharpened weapon.
The Nimmo sidestepped her strikes like he was avoiding an annoying insect. He brought the flat edge of his blade down on her back and forced her back to the floor. Defeated.
“Again!” he shouted.
The Kougra cursed under her breath.
“We have been at this for five hours!” she shouted. “You are too fast, too strong! What hope do I have?”
The Nimmo laughed.
“Is that what you imagine our enemies will do?” he asked. “When we lie vanquished in the sand, they will show us mercy? Allow us a victory even though we have been granted nothing but defeat? No! The path to victory is through victory. There is not a single member of the Kal Panning defence force that has not bested me in single combat, girl. You will do the same, or you will walk away from these grounds a failure. Now, again!”
The Kougra bit back her tears.
“Gyn-Marg, again!” the Nimmo repeated. “Or are you not worthy?”
The Kougra felt a great sense of anger well up in the pit of her stomach. It was an emotion her training had told her to master. To bottle and ignore. But she couldn’t help herself this time. She rose, swinging her sword with a roar of anger and frustration that came more from just her voice. There was a sudden power in her movements and her sword seem to ripple in the air. The Nimmo’s eyes went wide and he moved his blade to block the strike — the metal shattered clean in two. The Nimmo was thrown back, landing in a heap in the sand.
Gym-Marg stood there, breathless, for a long while, before she realised what she had done. Then she moved towards the Nimmo, to help him up.
Her master did not take the offered hand. He stared at her, in a mixture of awe and fear.
“That was not the way of the sword,” he said. “I did not teach you that.”
“I don't know where it came from,” she said. “I'm sorry.”
“Do not apologise,” he said. “Power like that is meant to be used. But it is not something I can tutor you in. I can teach you nothing, Gyn-Marg. Your training here is finished,”
“Then I am to be made a soldier?”
“No,” he said.
“But I bested you!” She complained. “Those are the rules. Anyone who does, defends the city.”
“Not you,” the Nimmo said. “That power is something greater. You could stand on the walls of this city all your life and never use it. No, you are meant for something more, Gyn-Marg. Something greater. And that lies beyond Kal Panning. When you find it, you will know.”
At the time, she thought she was being punished. It would be years until she understood the truth he had spoken to her.
Gym-Marg did not know this place. Some burnt out village that had once been a hub of activity on the road between Kal Panning and Meadow Vale. She had seen dozens like it though, fallen prey to bandits, wizard,s or both. The roads were dangerous for travellers and the towns just as much so for those who stayed put.
Lawless times in Neopia. It made Gyn-Marg angry just to think about.
Her armour clinked as she passed through the ruins of the brick houses. The plates she wore gleamed silver, won as her prizes in countless battles since she had left the gates of Kal Panning al those years previously. Her sword though, was still the same. She felt an attachment to it she could not readily abandon.
She paused and felt the bricks of a nearby ruin. Still warm. This destruction was recent.
There was no sign of life, but she had learnt in her travels that such a thing often just meant that life was hiding. Either through fear or malice. The only way to be certain which was to seek it out. A dangerous thing to do, but Gyn-Marg was no stranger to danger. She did not back down from a fight.
“Hello?” she called out to the darkness. “Is there anyone still alive here? I am a position to lend aid. I mean you no harm. On my oath.”
The feverish laughter that came in response answered whatever questions she had about who still remained here.
Three Neopets emerged from the shadows. One with a blade, one with a crossbow, and the third a small wand.
“She’s got an oath, lads,” the one with the crossbow said to her friends. “Careful, wouldn't want to prick ourselves on it, might come over all righteous.”
“Sorry,” the one with the wand added. “Oaths are no good here. We only take gold. But we’ll have the silver of your armour, if we have to make do. If you leave it now we might even be generous, give you a head start.”
“Where are the people who lived here?” Gym-Marg demanded.
“We didn't give them the head start,” the one with the sword said with a wicked grin.
Gyn-Marg spat on the ground. Drew her sword.
“Very well,” she said. “Creatures of darkness. In the names of those whom you have wronged, I shall dispense justice this day!”
She ran at them letting the emotion boil up as she had learnt to go. Channel her power into the magic, and channel the magic into her sword.
She swung once, deflecting a magical bolt from the bandit with the wand. Another swing shattered the incoming crossbow bolt. When her sword found a home, it was against the bandit with a sword. His weapon shattered like glass against her own, and the shockwave sent him flying back.
Gym-Marg turned, scratching her sword tip across the ground and then slashing up, sending out an arc of energy that caught the bandit with the crossbow and sent her to the ground, her weapon lost into the ruins.
Gym-Marg turned to deal with the third, but he was faster. A blast of energy hit her shoulder, knocking her down. The bandit moved for a second chance, but suddenly, fresh magic burst onto the scene. The bandit was lifted clean off his feet, and thrown into the ruins some distance away.
A tall Eyrie with fire in his eyes and green magic flowing down his staff was striding towards them.
“Flee now, and you may yet keep your lives,” he commanded.
There were others coming behind him. A Blumaroo, which on his heels. The bandits took their chance, disappeared into the night.
The Eyrie offered Gyn-Marg his hand.
“Jahbal,” he said.
“As in, Jahbal the Just?” she asked. “I have heard tales of you. How you dispense justice on the roads.”
“Not just I,” he replied. “Not any longer, at least. WE few have joined together., We seek a better world. A better one than this, at least.”
Something in her mind came alight at the idea, and she was reminded of her old master’s words. She knew, at once, she had found her calling. This was where she was meant to be.
“Gym-Marg,” she said. “I am a knight-errant. It would be my honour if you would allow me to join you.”
VII-II. Gyn-Marg, the Duelist
When Kal Panning rose up against the Great Empire, it might have put Gyn-Marg in an awkward position to attack her old homeland. But by then, the corruption of Xantan had set in and Gyn-Marg had no qualms about attacking her former kin. Her enemies were the enemies of the Empire, whoever they may be.
At the siege of Kal Panning, she led the southern assault against the bulk of the defending armies. She challenged the Kal Panning Generals in single combat and bested them all, drawing the attention of their forces while Polmith’s armies attacked the city from the north.
After the battle, Gyn-Marg became obsessed with the idea of single combat, travelling the land and challenging any and all to duels to the death. She hoped to prove herself the finest swordswoman of all time. Growing increasingly reckless, she eventually met her end in a battle while travelling in the wilds of the Desert of Roo.
Gyn-Marg stood on the battlefield in her shining golden armour. Her retainers were at her side, loyal aides she had selected personally as General of the Great Empire’s armies. The rest of the troops, and the council members, were some way behind her.
And in front, Kal Panning. The great doors beyond the lake were open. Haestil’s poisons had worked, the city was on the bring of starvation. They had no choice but to ride out and meet them.
And how they did. The entire Kal Panning army amassed just out of their magical range. Gyn-Marg remembered the days she had dreamed of being one of them. How different her life might have been.
In the eerie quiet that came before battles, she took stock of her surroundings. Something, deep inside, told her this was just the start of something deeper. She had once pledged fealty to Jahbal, but now, away from Neopia City, she had begun to worry that he, too, was reaching too much for power. Just like Xantan before him. Gym-Marg had pledged to justice, as well, and that oath came first.
She leaned over to one of her retainers, a red Techo.
“Theodore, you have served me well these years,” she said.
“As I will ever, General,” he answered. “Until my death, if needed.”
“In the coming days I may need you to guard something very precious,” Gyn-Marg said. “A task I would entrust only to those who I knew could not be corrupted.”
If Jahbal was to be dealt with, he would need a prison. And every prison needs a guard.
“Gyn-Marg!” Jahbal shouted from the rear lines. “It is time!”
She nodded, put on her helmet, and marched into the no mans lands that separated the two armies. She raised her voice as loud as she could, and lifted her sword.
“Single combat!” she shouted. “Who here will challenge the champion of the Great Empire!?”
Someone would answer the call, they were sure. Kal Panning was full of such brave idiots. All it needed was one, and then Gyn-Marg would put on a show. An elegant distraction while Polmith and his raiders attacked the city’s rear flank. By the time they realised the deception, the trap would spring and Kal Panning would be aflame.
But first, the show.
One person strode out to meet her. It was a face she recognised, though one withered by age. Her old Master.
“Gym-Marg,” the Nimmo said. “You have grown.”
“Quint,” she said, not gracing him with the title of Master any longer. “You have grown, but grown feeble, I see.”
The Nimmo gave a sad smile. He adopted his stance.
“Then strike me, if you think you can,” he said.
Gym-Marg readied herself.
“I think not,” she said. “Your people are starving, I have nothing to gain by making this short. Strike me, if you think you can.”
Quint shook his head in disgust, but he knew he had to play her game. He danced towards her, still spry for a man of such an age, but nothing compared to Gyn-Marg. She reached for the magic and brought it down hard on his sword. It shattered in two, and he fell to the floor.
“Again!” she roared.
Quint got to his feet, holding the broken blade. He rushed at her, but the magic sword connected again. This time the steel shattered into more pieces than Quint could possibly hold.
He fell, spluttering, to the ground.
“Again!” Gym-Marg roared.
“Why bother?” he spat. “You are too fast, too strong. Your magic, too powerful. I don't stand a chance!”
“Is that what you imagine you enemies do?” she mocked him. “Why you lie vanquished in the sand, that we will show you mercy? Allow you victory when you have been granted nothing but defeat? You once told me that the only path to victory is through victory. That every member of your army had to prove themselves worthy against you. Well, now they will watch you fall. They will see what true worthiness looks like. Stand. Again.”
“Please…” he begged.
“Again!” she growled.
Begrudgingly, he got to his feet. This time, Gyn-Marg dispensed of the sword. She held out her hand, and a blast of pure energy took the old Nimmo. He fell, crumpled, to the ground. Gym-Marg beheld the look of terror on the faces of the Kal Panning soldiers.
Then the horns began to sound in the city. Polmith’s attack had begun. War horns from the Empire’a troops behind Gyn-Marg sounded. The signal to begin. The two armies clashed together in the glorious sound of metal on metal.
A symphony to Gyn-Marg’s ears.
After the banishment of Jahbal, Gyn-Marg appointed Theodore to guard the only passage in or out of Two Rings Valley. The only weak spot in the entire spell they had cast, and even then one requiring a key. That, she hid away in Kal Panning, the site of their greatest victory. She told no one, not even Theodore. The Techo pledged that he would guard the tunnel until his dying day, and his son after him. Until the work of the Circle was done. Gym-Marg did not doubt the man’s loyalty.
Then, she returned to Neopia City with the others, and discovered Oberon’s treachery. Fearing he may be in league with Mastermind, she set off to find him, leaving the city in the care of the others.
She travelled the world, searching for the Kyrii. Sometimes, she would come across remains of their once great Empire. Citizens who believed the Circle was to blame for their ills. Deluded fools. Gym-Marg fought and bested them all.
Until she entered the Desert of Roo.
She had got to thinking that perhaps Mastermind was holed up there, plotting against the Empire, or whatever remained of it in Gyn-Marg’s mind. It was the last place anyone had seen him. She had heard whispered rumours that Haestil was gone, Zhadoom too. That Bamon-Sal and Lamora had fought each other. Tradym and Polmith, she understood, had turned pirate. That left her as the only remaining loyalist. It was up to her to dispense the justice of the Empire.
As she drew near the Temple, a figure emerged from the sand. Not the one she was expecting.
“He’s not here,” he said. “Mastermind will never return to this place. It’s like a tomb to him. Too many painful memories. But you, I thought you would come here straight away. I waited here for a month after the fall of the Temple. I got bored, eventually, went both to deal with Haestil. But I came back to wait. I knew you would come here eventually. So predictable. If a little late.”
“Why did you turn against the Empire, Oberon?”
“I was never strictly for it,” the Kyrii replied. “I just tagged along with Xantan, and now, well any fool could see which way the wind was blowing, and if it is survival of the fittest you can bet I am going to be the last one standing.”
“You swore an oath!” she shouted.
“People lie all the time, General,” he replied. “It’s really not that special. I don't know why everyone is always so surprised. Lying is so easy.”
“Oathbreakers have a singular fate,” she said, drawing her sword.
“Let’s you and I put that to the test.”
He reached into his nether universe and pledged one of the Orbs of Power. This one pulsed a bright yellow. Shock magic.
Gyn-Marg swung her sword and ran at him, focusing her magic along the blade into a single, blinding point that could sheer through mountains if it tried.
It encountered the blast from Oberon three feet before she reached her. The sword was found wanting.
The lightning there Gyn-Marg back, the sword flying from her hand and impacting hard in the sand nearby. The heat of the lightning had melted the metal, into nothing more than a pool of slag.
The golden armour of her shoulder pouldrons, too, had softened where the lightning hit her. She hastily unbuckled them and threw them into the sand before they could burn her flesh.
No weapon and no armour. Gyn-Marg was defenceless.
Oberon approached. Another blast was all it took.To be continued…