Saturday, 12 April 2008
01:43:22 AM (GMT)
The fires in the furnace roared even louder as the blue Draik fed some more wood
into them, casting a reddish glow on the stone walls of Brightvale Glaziers. His
first weeks as an apprentice there had been quiet ones, and he felt as if he were
learning (even if he mostly spent his days stoking the fires and sweeping up shards
of glass that he broke with his clumsiness). The master glazier, also a blue Draik,
was a kind teacher, but it was the quietness of it all that he couldn't adjust to.
Now that the fire was hot enough, he carefully slid the blob of molten glass on the
end of a tube back into the flames, watching as it heated until it was glowing white.
Once it was liquefied enough, he'd add some special salts to turn it a brilliant red,
perfect for the rose window he was making. Yes, he told himself, this is good work,
safe work. And yet...
"Have you heard the news?" asked the master glazier as he entered the room, looping a
green and gold apron over his head.
The younger Draik, still frowning with concentration over his molten glass, shook his
head, so the master glazier went on, "Seems there's trouble over in Meridell."
At that point, there was a crash as the tongs holding the glass fell from the other
Draik's claws. Shards of newly red glass skittered across the floor like a swarm of
Squippits. "What is it?" he asked the master glazier.
"Well, I can't say for sure. Something about traitors, from what I could make out."
He looked at his apprentice, who was standing silently and staring at the ground.
"Are you all right?"
The younger Draik didn't answer, but just kept his gaze fixed on the ground, on a
shard of red glass that looked remarkably like a sword. "Never again," he murmured...
Author: Living in the Past
Date: Apr 7th
"What do you mean 'never again'?" the master glazier asked curiously, taken aback by
the reaction of his student. "What has you so worked up, Rorin?"
"I'm afraid that for all your kindness, I have not been terribly truthful with you,"
said the younger Draik, looking into the blazing furnace guiltily. "You don't even
really know my name... it isn't Rorin like I told you when we first met... it's
The master glazier looked at the other Draik with his eyebrows raised incredulously.
"You mean to tell me that this whole time I've been harbouring a fugitive? The only
Neopet ever to escape the dungeons of Meridell?"
"That's right," Valrigard said softly. "You can feel free to hate me; all I ask is
that you don't tell anyone about this until after I leave."
The master glazier let out a bellowing laugh that made Valrigard jump. "My dear boy,
do you really think I would turn you in? I was just surprised that the Draik who
thwarted guards and evaded traps was so very clumsy when it came to handling glass."
Valrigard smiled weakly at the old Draik. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I
would meet someone as kind as you after I escaped. I wish I could stay here and live
out my life as I had planned, but all this talk of another traitor... I have to stop
"If that’'s what you wish, then I have no right to stop you," the master said,
grabbing a broom from the side wall and sweeping up the shards of glass that littered
"I can do that," Valrigard said, stepping forward to grab the broom.
The master glazier shook his head, declining the help. "I have a feeling, my boy,
that you are no longer my apprentice... it would be rude of me to ask you to do this
when you no longer belong here."
The younger Draik pulled back sadly, a bitter smile on his face. "I wish I could
stay, but the pull of this is too strong. I have a feeling that Skarl's adviser is
playing games with the lives of knights again, and I cannot in good conscience allow
it to continue."
The master glazier nodded, staring down at the glass that he had swept together, the
red of it twinkling like the burning embers of a fire, or perhaps more like the cold
burning he had seen from the beginning in the eyes of his apprentice. "If you need
supplies, I will give them to you, and the sword that you first possessed when you
showed up on the steps of my shop is still locked in the storage shed in the back."
Valrigard nodded, saying nothing as he prepared to leave. His former master, true to
his word, had prepared a bundle of supplies and it was sitting near the front door.
At long last, he went to the shed, opening the creaky door and peering around.
Propped against the wall was his old sword, its serrated edges glistening in the
dusty light like fangs thirsting for battle.
When he gripped the hilt, everything came rushing back, and the weeks he had spent in
Brightvale Glaziers became a faraway dream, something ephemeral that could never be
touched again. The reality now was revenge, and with that ugly bitterness rearing its
head, he turned away from the place he had so dearly wished to have called home and
headed for the castle of Meridell, where he had once spent three long years in
Date: Apr 7th
Spreading his wings, Valrigard flew.
Regret fluttered in the far reaches of his mind. He'd wanted nothing more than to
settle down and live a quiet life outside of Meridell. He'd wanted to forget the
years wasted in those gloomy dungeons of that accursed castle and start anew.
Deep in his heart, the Draik had known it wasn't going to last. There'd always be
another call for bravery, and his knight's soul didn't allow him to stand idle with a
clear conscience as another Neopet suffered unjustly.
The cool air danced around him, twisting and coiling like tendrils of a faerie's
magic. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, enjoying a last minute of peace before
he'd throw himself into the heart of the fire again.
The irony of it all. He'd hoped to never again see that castle that now loomed before
him on the horizon, its double doors seeming like the imposing maw of some giant
But he wasn't going to allow another knight to suffer because of an adviser's
With a Draik's grace, he angled downward and plunged to the ground like a shooting
star, a streak of blue in the late afternoon sky.
He squinted at the castle. Was it just him, or did that great sentinel of white stone
look somehow... different?
It took Valrigard a few moments to discover the change, and when he found it, a jolt
of ice pierced his heart.
Meridell's flag had changed.
No longer did the ensign of red and blue flutter above the kingdom. No longer did
banners of crimson and cerulean hang down from the castle walls. Skarl's colours had
been taken down.
In their place was a new emblem, one Valrigard recognised all too well...
Date: Apr 8th
...the green and gold of Brightvale!
Valrigard stared at Hagan's flags, the banners of the land that had taken him in and
shown him mercy, and his mind stumbled; his plans shattered like glass cooled too
quickly. He would have expected almost anything else. Darigan's ominous purple, say,
if the uneasy peace treaty had been broken. Ramtor's own family crest in paler blue
and rich gold, if the evil Bruce adviser had grown bold enough for that. Some other
puppet's coat of arms. Most likely, he would have thought, would be Meridell's own
colours as usual -- proud flags and bunting to disguise the corruption inside and
make it appear all was well.
It hadn't occurred to him that things could have gone so very wrong already as to
have changed the flags.
And it certainly hadn't crossed his mind that it would be Brightvale.
Suddenly, Valrigard wished he had stayed longer to ask Master Oriel what was going
on. And there was another worry. Oriel was kind, but it seemed likely that if
Meridell and Brightvale were in conflict, his loyalties would lie with his home. The
master glazier had let him leave, but would he have sent warning ahead by some swift
courier? Valrigard was far younger than his teacher, but he wasn't exactly young,
either. He had already been grown and knighted when the current King's Champion Jeran
wandered out of the woods around Illusen's Glade as a child. The right Neopet or
Petpet messenger could have outstripped him.
So now he had to worry about Brightvale's apparent treachery, on top of Meridell's
laws and Adviser Ramtor's machinations.
The aim of his course was still clear, though. He had to do his utmost to save both
his homeland and his colleagues... whatever they might think of him in the process.
Clearly, it would require stealth. Well, he had plenty of practice at that. He wasn't
likely to make it through the front doors, though.
In fact, after due consideration, he thought his best chance was probably the
Valrigard took off again, taking care not to look as if he intended to sneak
anywhere, and splashed noisily down into the moat. It was an obstacle to certain
types of attacks, but not particularly one to anyone who could fly or swim well, and
some Neopets even played in it. After a few minutes, however, he submerged himself
and dived for a certain gap in the inner wall of it.
He was still underwater for a considerable distance, almost the limit of his lung
capacity, but at last he broke the surface of the water and followed the damp
drainage ditch farther uphill and into the very opening that had at last let him
squeeze out of the upper levels of the dungeons. He looked up one last time at the
sky through a tangle of thornbushes that had grown in the moisture that leaked out,
and then he was back inside.
He made his way in haste and silence along the comparatively unguarded passageway.
Getting into the dungeon had been the easy part, since they apparently hadn't figured
out how he'd first escaped. Getting into the upper levels of the castle, that was
going to be a good trick.
Valrigard paused and dodged into a side passage at the top of some stairs as he saw
flickering torchlight ahead. Not coming toward him, but up in the next passageway. He
peered cautiously out and watched a pair of guards go by. Blast, they'd gotten
smarter. Still, if he could knock someone down who had keys, he might be able to get
He'd have to get closer, scope out whether anyone else was near enough to hear. He
should be able to take a pair, if he did it right.
Valrigard started to move out into the previous hallway again -- and heard voices
coming up the stairway. He gasped, heart pounding, and flattened himself against the
wall -- but after a moment he realised that the voices weren't getting closer. They
were merely getting louder.
There was a distinctive scrape of claws on the metal bars of the cells. He heard a
clank that could only be someone strong enough -- stronger than he had been -- to
wrench at the barred door hard enough for it to rattle in its place.
And he recognised both the voices. One was Jeran Borodere. And the other...
Date: Apr 8th
...was deeper, filled with outraged indignation.
Valrigard had the oddest sense that he was losing his grip on reality. Perhaps the
hours spent gazing through hazy fumes into a prison of smouldering embers as glass
took its shape had wreaked havoc with his sanity. Surely there was no other
explanation for this situation. The rattling bars certainly supported his theory that
Brightvale's king was trapped down here; Hagan was sturdy and powerful, much more so
than his stout sibling.
The Draik slowly moved over the chilling stones that lay upon the dungeon floor. How
many times had he sat for hours, watching a small Petpetpet travel over those roughly
placed rocks, counting each tiny step? That had been a time when the hours were
plentiful and any excuse to keep his mind sharp was a good one; time wasn't so
generous now and the situation had him bewildered. Pressed up against the cool stone
wall, the Draik focused all his attention, confirming his earlier suspicions.
Hagan and Jeran locked in a cell? Then why did Hagan's colours fly upon the turrets
of Meridell Castle?
Questions assailed his mind like arrows flung from a quivering bow. Why was Hagan
locked up if his flag flew over a supposedly submissive realm? Jeran's imprisonment
had been somewhat expected; the noble Lupe was Meridell's greatest champion, so any
foe would not hesitate to make sure the brave knight wouldn't cause trouble.
Another question weighed heavily.
If Hagan is here... where is Skarl? Locked up in Brightvale somewhere? Who is running
the two kingdoms? Valrigard asked himself.
This wasn't the work of Meridell's king, Valrigard was certain of it. Skarl was a
cantankerous creature with firm ambitions, but framing his own brother and
endangering Meridell didn't seem to count among his desires.
Whoever did this wanted to frame Hagan. They want everyone to think Brightvale has
invaded its neighbour.
When Valrigard considered the idea, it did seem almost laughable. Tranquil little
Brightvale, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the arts attacking Meridell,
with its fine tradition of knighthood and wealth.
But someone knew that the panicking masses wouldn't look for logic. They would just
understand that Brightvale has attacked. Someone wanted to start a war...
Who, though, would benefit from watching Meridell and Brightvale destroy one another?
The Draik's brow furrowed. Disturbing as his realisations were, he wasn't going to
make much progress curled up against a freezing wall within a dark dungeon. The only
logical step was to approach the cell that held Jeran and Hagan, all the while hoping
that neither was so shocked to see what was little more than a ghost from the past
that they cried out. He had no desire to join them in their prison.
Taking a deep breath, Valrigard glanced to the left of the shadowy passage that led
out from his hiding place. Nothing. The right, too, seemed clear. With adrenaline
coursing through his form, the Draik stepped forward, only to gasp in shock as he was
grabbed from behind, his mouth covered as a hushed voice hissed…
Date: Apr 9th
The words didn't register in Valrigard's brain. Speech had ceased to mean anything to
him when the paws had seized him. He had been captured.
Reverting to his most basic soldier's instincts, the blue Draik proceeded to struggle
and thrash as violently as he could. His paw shot down to unsheathe his trusty sword,
but the other Neopet had already grabbed his arm.
"Stop that or they'll hear you!" hissed the voice, gripping Valrigard with more power
than the Draik would have expected.
Valrigard fell limp, more out of shock than obedience. Because he recognised the
speaker, even though it seemed like years since he had last heard him, rather than
just an hour.
"Oriel?" he choked.
The other Draik let go, pulling Valrigard against the wall. "More quietly," he
Valrigard reeled. This couldn't be real. First, there'd been another 'traitor' in
Meridell; that was believable, albeit unfortunate. But then suddenly Hagan was
imprisoned in a castle dungeon he'd been framed of annexing -- with Meridell's most
esteemed knight, too, he couldn't forget that -- and now his mentor had waltzed right
into the scene? A very jumbled, nostalgic dream seemed to be the only possibility.
But if it was real...
Valrigard struggled for words for a handful of seconds. At last, he found his tongue.
"What are you doing here?" he spluttered.
The master glazier gazed into Valrigard's eyes. "Looking for you. And Hagan, but
there isn't much I can do until I find a ring of keys."
"But why?" The Draik struggled to keep his voice low. "It's too dangerous here!"
A low, rusty chuckle rumbled in Oriel's throat, before his face returned back to
serious solemnity. "I may be old, and not as strong as I used to be, but I can still
wave a sword around. And I have a duty to my king."
Valrigard opened his mouth to reply, but Oriel thrust a hand over his mouth, pressing
him up against the cold wall.
Footsteps echoed a floor above, getting louder, and then fading into the distance.
Whoever it was hadn't been heading to the dungeons.
"Why are you here?" Valrigard repeated, much more quietly. "Why did you want me?"
Oriel sighed. "I came to plead for help, although now I realise I'm probably not
going to find any. Not only has King Hagan has been kidnapped, but Brightvale is
under attack by..."
Date: Apr 9th
"...the Haunted Woods," Oriel finished.
Valrigard's mouth fell open, and he couldn't help but splutter, "The Woods?" He could
understand if it had been Darigan -- and right now, his mind even said Meridell was
more logical than this -- but the Haunted Woods?
"Yes, I am afraid so," Oriel said, sadness filling his eyes. "Droves of beasts --
Werelupes and Bearogs, spectres and monsters the likes of which only dwell in the
darkest of nightmares.... They suddenly left the trees and rose against us, no leader
amongst them, merely ravaging legions of soldiers.... We were caught defenseless."
Valrigard was barely comprehending any of this. Who would gain from such an attack?
There was no ruling body in the Woods, so certainly they had to have been lured from
their abode by an outside entity. Surely this wasn't Skarl -- there was no way he
could control them all -- but...perhaps...could it truly be Ramtor?
No doubt the adviser was up to his old schemes again, framing Knights for crimes they
didn't commit so he could overtake the throne. But this time, he'd taken it a step
further, made the Meridellians believe Brightvale was invading while Brightvale was
being overcome by hordes of monstrous beasts. Then, as the legions rose upon
Meridell, there would truly be no hope for the kingdom's survival -- until, at last,
by the grace of conspiracy, Ramtor stepped forth and drove away the very soldiers
he'd summoned upon them. It was a brilliantly clever plan, Valrigard had to admit,
but Ramtor had been foiled before, and he assured himself that the Bruce would be
foiled once again. Not in his lifetime would Ramtor ever gain the throne, not if he
had anything to do with it.
And right now, he had everything to do with it.
"Valrigard," Oriel said, clasping the younger Draik's shoulders and gazing deeply
into his widened eyes, "can I trust you?"
Valrigard speechlessly nodded.
Master Oriel smiled. "Then find the keys and return here. You can do this, yes?"
Valrigard grinned. "It's not the first time I've needed keys to get out of here, is
"No, I suppose it's not." Oriel's gaze wandered off towards the cell for a moment. "I
shall go speak with them; Hagan will likely trust me more than he will trust you--"
Oriel spun to his apprentice, his face furrowed. "I didn't mean--"
"I know," Valrigard said. "I understand."
And there, they parted ways.
Finding the keys was easier than Valrigard had thought it would be. He already knew
where every guard station was, and once he'd reached the nearest one, all he had to
do was wait. Soon enough, one of the guards excused himself from a boisterous round
of drinks, and once he'd reached the hall's end, Valrigard took his opportunity to
strike. In no time at all, the Ixi guard was draped across his back and the ring of
keys dangled from his claws.
Not more than a few minutes later, Valrigard was sliding the unconscious Ixi into the
emptied cell under the watchful eyes of Hagan, Oriel, and Jeran before he swung the
door shut and tossed the keys aside.
Once again, his master took Valrigard by the shoulders and focused his pristine eyes
upon the younger Draik's. "I thank you, my