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||You are on Week 447
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Four Hundred Forty Seven Ends Friday, February 5th
He should have felt something other than terror. Jonn wasn't sure what he should've felt (Pride at defending his kingdom against the Darigan invasion? Righteous anger at the evil Lord Kass? Excitement for the impending battle?), but all he could feel was terror hard and heavy as a stone, weighing him down. His paws were slick and sweaty on the pommel of his sword, no matter how many times he wiped them.
The Zafara looked at his Meridellian comrades and tried to read their expressions, to figure out if he was alone in wanting to drop his sword and run as far in the other direction as he could. His friend Sam, a Draik, crouched beside him in the trench where their troop was hiding, his eyes bright and shining. He's looking forward to this, Jonn thought incredulously. Sam had always dreamt of being a knight, though, so perhaps his excitement was inevitable. This battle was just one step toward that dream.
Jonn's stomach dropped even more. He'd never felt more alone. All he wanted was to go back to his snug cottage, grow potatoes in his field, and sit by the fire at night with a book and a mug of Borovan. Maybe that way of life would be gone forever if Darigan emerged victorious, but the Zafara somehow doubted it. Wars didn't really affect the lives of lowly farmers, he reflected. Potatoes would still grow no matter who ruled the kingdom.
Swallowing hard, Jonn made himself peek over the edge of their trench. In the pre-dawn darkness, he could just make out the faint gleam of firelight on armour across the battlefield. The Darigan army. Did any of them feel the way he did? He wondered if this would be any easier if he hated the citizens of the Darigan Citadel, but he just couldn't.
On the other side of the battlefield, the drums started up, rolling to Jonn's ears like the rumble of thunder. It was starting...
Author: The Calm Before the Battle|
Date: Feb 1st
Then the thunder really started. Less than half a mile away, the Darigan forces began to advance. Hundreds of Neopets, all trampling the earth in time. The walls of Jonn's trench began to quake with the force.
Jonn glanced again toward Sam. The Draik smiled bravely back and tightened his grip on his sword.
Jonn stared down at his own weapon. It was a pitiful thing, rusted and mostly blunt. That's what happened when the villagers had been drafted in to fight. All the good weapons had gone to the knights, and the troops were left with the rest. Jonn's weapon may have served a soldier well, but the battles it had fought were centuries ago. He'd be lucky to graze someone with it.
Down the trench, the Captain's voice called down the line, "Fight with honour! Long live the King!"
"Long live the King!" the voices of the troop shouted back, like a battle cry engrained in their souls.
Jonn felt Sam tense beside him.
It was time.
Behind the trench, the trumpets of the Meridell army rose up. The sound sent a shiver down Jonn's spine.
"Charge!" the Captain yelled.
All around him, the soldiers leapt up and over the trench, out into the battle. Sam was gone before Jonn even knew what was happening. Fearsome roars deafened his ears.
Jonn swallowed hard, gripped his rusty sword with all his might, and scrabbled up to the top of the trench, a battle cry escaping his lips as he went...
Date: Feb 1st
A battle cry?
As he bellowed and scrambled with the others, a small part of Jonn's mind wondered what had possessed him to suddenly shout his challenge to the winds. Hadn't he been anxious a moment ago, alone, unsure? And yet here he was...
That last bit of his doubt gave way to the thrill and urgency of battle as the ancient sword in his hands began to glow a serene crimson light. The Zafara's heart thrummed a song of war in his chest as the tarnished blade shone silver again, flawless steel that danced through the air and cut down anything -- or in this case, anyone -- who got in his way.
A downward swipe fended off a Darigan Eyrie who didn't even get the chance to raise his dagger. Charging forward through the ranks, Jonn wounded an archer who would not be able to draw his bow for a while. The scream of a defeated Darigan Kougra pierced the air, but was lost in the entire symphony of war, barely even heard by the warrior who was nothing but an unstoppable force among the Darigan fighters.
Like a beacon of hope, or perhaps a harbinger of attack, Jonn's old sword continued to gleam even as it became a blur, spinning and striking and parrying so fast that even Jonn himself couldn't keep track of its movement.
It was as if the weapon had a mind of its own, and was simply directing its wielder as it saw fit. Throwing all hesitance away, the Zafara let out another feral roar as he resumed his assault on the hapless soldiers who had no idea what hit them.
* * *
"I saw you out there; you were amazing!" Sam winced as a Kacheek healer bound his injured wing. "Jonn, we should both become knights! You've got what it takes!"
"I... do?" Jonn accepted a cup of water and drained the entire thing in one gulp. "I dunno, I guess I kind of just... let go..."
The Draik glanced at his comrade hopefully, prompting Jonn to continue.
"I think my sword... this old thing... it's like it was showing me how to do it, and then when I held it, it glowed and was suddenly like new, like those swords the knights have."
"Huh?" Sam looked as though Jonn had grown an extra head. "What do you mean?"
Putting down his cup, the Zafara drew his sword, which was as archaic and as rusty as ever, hardly fit for actual battle...
Date: Feb 2nd
...and it remained quite as determinedly rust-eaten and dull-edged as ever, just as magical swords are wont to do when their powers are not needed by their wielders.
"Don't know what you're talking about, mate!" said Sam after this less-than-stellar preformance on the part of the sword. "I think it was all you. You should have seen yourself, you were like a bladed whirlwind out there -- they had no idea what hit 'em!"
Lord Kass's fist slammed hard upon a papery mess of maps, diagrams and troop statistics.
His advisors flinched as one, eyes fixed on the dusty floor as though it was the most riveting thing they had ever seen in their lives.
Kass drew a breath that whistled through his beak like a hiss.
"What," he asked in a dangerously low and calm voice, "happened out there?"
A Scorchio clutching a stack of papers started leafing through them feverishly. "My Lord -- we are not sure, but there have been unconfirmed reports of a Meridellian warrior armed with a magnificent sword that..."
"...Y-yes, it seems that this warrior was able to rout many of our troops -- I have an eyewitness Aisha who stated that he moved like the wind, and a Techo saw him take down two heavily armoured Skeiths in one blow, said he'd never seen courage equal to it..."
Kass's anger was palpable in the stuffy command room.
"My army," he breathed, "is comprised of imbeciles."
"And my counsellors," he continued, "are superstitious cretins. Get out of my sight. Now."
The counsellors scurried out the door like contrite Cybunnies and shut the door gently behind them.
Kass waited until their retreating footsteps had faded into the distance and turned to a shadowy corner of the room.
"Everything..." replied a croaky voice. A heavily hooded figure emerged from the darkness, features distorted by age and evil. Morguss.
"A sword like the one described -- is it possible?"
Morguss smiled coyly at Kass. "Nothing is imposs--"
"Spare me your trite platitudes, witch, and answer my question."
"Yes, Sire. There may well be such a sword... we thought it lost to the ages, but it is known to resurface in times of need..."
"Tell me," commanded Kass. And Morguss began to speak...
Date: Feb 2nd
The Moehog used one gnarled hoof to push the raggedy hood back on her head, revealing yellow eyes that shone weakly like counterfeit jewels. "It can only be the Sunblade." A smile of smug satisfaction bled across her muzzle as she enjoyed Kass's stunned expression.
"You don't mean...?"
The smile spread further in a grotesque parody of happiness, the best that the decrepit Morguss could muster. "Indeed, Sire, I do mean. The sword found and used by Jeran to... I beg your pardon here... to defeat you and your forces in the last battle with Meridell."
Kass slitted his eyes dangerously and hissed, "But I was assured..."
"Yes, Sire," Morguss interrupted, her smile fading and twisting to a death mask rictus. "The battlefield was searched in secret, spies were sent abroad, and no sign, no hint of the Sunblade was ever discovered. But from these battle reports, it has obviously been found again."
Kass turned, clasped his wings behind his back, and began to pace. Whirling suddenly to face the old witch once more, he sneered, "Then you will find and bring me this sword. This Sunblade."
Jonn raised the blade high over his head, holding it steady in two hands grown strong from years of hard field work, and sliced it through the air just in front of his friend's snout. As it descended, the Zafara concentrated on its edge, awaiting the moment when the lifeless steel would start again to glow and shine. But that didn't happen. The downward force drove the blade into the soft mud of the trench's wall, burying the sword to the hilt, and Jonn grunted as he struggled to get it unstuck.
Watching his friend's effort, Sam began to chortle and said, "You look like you're digging for potatoes, Jonn." He began to laugh even harder, and wiping a tear from the corner of his eye, he added, "Maybe you should have brought a hoe with you instead of a sword."
Just then the trumpets rang out across the field of battle; the second wave of attack was set to begin. The silence in the labyrinthine trenches fell like dominoes from the column nearest to the front lines all the way back to where fresh supplies and soldiers were being brought in from Meridell. All at once, a thousand warriors held their breath in anticipation.
The smile on Sam's face faded slowly in time with the last of the echoing trumpet blasts, and shrugging his wounded wing to ensure it was securely bound to his side, he drew his sword and prepared to launch once more over the top.
Even wounded he's more fearless than I am, Jonn thought. The Zafara panicked as he realised that he was not going to free his sword before the order came to attack once more, and he planted both of his feet against the wall of the trench to get the maximum leverage. Still the sword stuck fast.
With a look of barely concealed disgust, Sam turned to his friend and asked, "How about you leave the soldiering to the soldiers?"
The Zafara felt stung by his friend's words and stammered, "B-b-but you said yourself I'd make a good knight. You said I've got what it takes."
"Well," Sam replied, holding his blade to where it would refract a stinging ray of morning sun into his friend's eyes, "what it takes right now would be a weapon. And unless you brought that hoe..."
The trumpets sounded the attack before Jonn could reply, and he turned his focus back to freeing the blade again. He grunted and pulled at the well-worn, starburst imprinted pommel on the sword as all around him the motley army took to the battlefield. When the last of his comrades had rejoined the fight, he let out a new battle cry of his own; a painful scream of frustration that leapt from the centre of his being, and with a final yank, the sword slid out as freely as a greased wheel.
As he pulled it through the air, Jonn was unsurprised to see the pristine blade glowing faintly red, and then stronger, more brilliant and golden, humming with power and strength in his calloused hands. He held it aloft once more, two-handed, over his head and could feel the power of the sword surge through him from fingertips to the ends of each furry paw. As he prepared to leap over the top of the trench, to prove that he was as valiant as a knight in battle, he heard the humming of the sword become stronger. He tilted his head to hear the sound better, and as he did so, the humming became singing, the humming became words. And as he listened, Jonn heard...
Date: Feb 3rd
... a harmonious melody, which soothed his mind and relaxed his thoughts.
"Brave knight to be, with sword so smooth,
Listen to this song and let it soothe.
Come to the woods behind the trench,
For the end of warfare; that awful stench."
Jonn stood motionless as the humming voice faded away, and the red glow of the sword dimmed back to rust and the reflecting morning sun. It took him some time to process the words of the song his old sword had sung to him.
He could hear the clinking of swords, the screaming and shouting of the troops, and sloshing of the muddy ground in the distance. The battle was well underway, and Jonn knew that's where he was needed.
But the Zafara just couldn't bring himself to move. Sam's words, and the melody of his sword stopped him from moving anywhere. Surely both of those occurrences happening within moments of each other couldn't have been just a coincidence, could they?
Jonn lowered the sword, holding its handle more firmly than ever. His gaze wandered over to the patch of trees behind the trench. It looked so serene and peaceful over there.
"Could I really just abandon Sam and the others?" he muttered to himself. Regardless of what Sam had told him earlier, if he could stop at least one Darigan soldier from wounding Meridell's troops, then his job was worthwhile.
But then, it was the sword that helped him last time. It just seemed to move for him, blocking blows from the enemy without Jonn thinking to do so himself. He was right to trust it in that last battle, so maybe the song it sung truly would help to end the war.
"It wouldn't hurt to just take a quick look over there," he muttered, sheathing the sword back at his side, and climbing over the back of the trench, away from the battle.
Yellow eyes gleamed from behind a tree. Their owner -- a malicious Moehog -- stood smirking as the evil green glow around her two front hooves faded. She watched as the Zafara carrying the Sunblade edged closer to her position.
"Oh, how delicious," she cackled. "My plan worked perfectly. Bewitching that idiotic friend of his and sending that hypnotic song through the sword was absolutely brilliant --" she paused, taking one last look at the Zafara, and grinned. The glow around her hooves returned. "Just one more thing needs to be done."
The green glow increased, slowly enveloping the old Moehog's whole body, but still remaining small enough to be covered by the woods that she stood in.
In another instant, the glow was gone -- as was the Moehog. Instead, a blue Lupe stood, clad in shining Meridellian armour.
Jeran, the hero and saviour of Meridell, the hallowed knight of this medieval realm and the most trusted Neopet in the whole nation, waited for the Sunblade to return. Only one thing was different about his visage: his eyes remained solitary, menacing, and yellow.
He smiled spitefully -- the smile of Morguss. "Lord Kass's reign is nigh...!"
Date: Feb 3rd
Jonn slowly negotiated his way through the thick trees, his sword always held out in an aggressive stance in front of him in case of danger. He was acutely aware of every scent and every sound, his whole body tense with anticipation. Why had the sword told him to come here, to this seemingly deserted part of the Meridellian woods? Within the Zafara knew he should be back at the battlefields, helping his fellow troops but something kept driving him onward, leading him deeper into the woods...
Suddenly a twig snapped a few metres behind Jonn, and he swung around quickly to face the direction of the noise. A flash of blue was visible for a brief moment behind a tree, but it soon disappeared.
"Who goes there?" Jonn asked, trying to keep his voice steady when in all actual fact, he was now shaking in his boots.
He approached the tree he had seen the blue behind slowly. In his grasp the sword began to glow red once more, and Jonn took it as a signal that it was an enemy, not friend, which lurked in these woods. Spotting another flash of blue a metre of so ahead Jonn dashed forward, a battle cry pouring from his lips as he leapt upon the other pet.
The other pet, which Jonn now identified as a blue Lupe, pushed upward when Jonn landed on his back, sending the Zafara flying backward. Jonn grunted as he hit a tree, but he quickly got back up, raising the blade in his paws.
He ran forward, but as he began his mad dash the mysterious Lupe turned around, and Jonn halted in his tracks.
It can't be... he thought, looking down at the blade.
It still thrummed with energy, its glow brighter than ever.
"Jeran?" Jonn said tentatively, edging forward. "Is that really you?"
The Lupe straightened up, brushing fallen leaves from his armour.
"Indeed it is I," the Lupe's deep throaty voice rumbled. "I am..."
"I'm sorry to butt in like this, but shouldn't you be on the other side of the battlefield with the knights? Those fighting Kass's strongest soldiers?" Jonn exclaimed.
"I could ask you the same thing," the Lupe sniffed. "You are wearing the garb of a Meridellian troop, yet while the battle rages out there you cower within the depths of the woods."
Jonn blushed and looked at the ground. "I'm ashamed of deserting the battle, but I am not being a coward by doing so."
"How so?" Jeran asked, patting his sheathed sword.
"This may be hard for you to understand but... my sword spoke to me. It told me to come to these woods, to seek something out. Now I think that thing may be you."
"Me?" Jeran said slowly. "I may be one of Neopia's finest but I am no more special than any other Meridellian fighting out there, not even you."
"No, no!" Jonn cried, gesturing at the sword glowing in his paws. "Look at this sword! Does it look normal to you?"
He held it forward, but never loosened his tight grip on the hilt. Jeran edged closer, reaching out to touch the metal blade but pulling his paw back at the last second.
"I agree that it does not appear normal... I know of this blade," he breathed. "This is my very own legendary Sunblade."
"Sunblade?" said Jonn, his voice questioning. "I've never heard of it. But now that you mention it... it does glow just like the sun, blazing through battle just like you."
"Indeed, I used it in the first battle against Kass. Now the Sunblade has led you back to me, so you can return it."
"Fine," whispered Jonn, fully trusting of the legendary Lupe. "Take it."
He held the Sunblade out loosely in his paws, still glowing as brightly as the sun, illuminating the woods immediately around them. However Jeran did not take the blade, instead he stood there, staring at it with a look of utter contempt.
"Hello, Jeran? Do you want your sword or not?"
"Of course," Jeran replied, snapping out of his staring match with the sword. "But first you must make it stop glowing."
"And how do I do that?" snorted the Zafara, examining the blade. "It's not like this thing came with an instruction manual."
"You must convince it that there is no further threat," Jeran replied. Upon noticing the questioning look in Jonn's eyes he continued, "Close your eyes. Tell the Sunblade with your mind that there is no danger, that it can let down its guard."
Slowly Jonn closed his eyes, allowing the world around him to go black.
Yes, everything is going to plan! thought Morguss, watching on as Jonn channelled his thoughts into the Sunblade.
Slowly the red glow was fading, ebbing away into the darkness. Jonn's eyes were screwed tightly shut, and he could not see the look of utter glee on Morguss's borrowed face.
Soon its power will be mine, and I will use it to take Lord Kass's throne for myself!
Morguss cackled inwardly, making sure to make no sound out loud as the woods were finally flung into darkness, the Sunblade's light gone out...
Date: Feb 4th
Jonn frowned, the sound of his own anxious breathing filling his ears. The faint humming tension of the Sunblade had dwindled to almost nothing in his paws, the blade rusty and dull once more, the hilt scabby and green with age. A single streak of the faintest crimson still gleamed in the sword's wide channel, however, because no matter how hard he tried, Jonn could not believe there was no danger here.
Why is Jeran out here anyway? he asked himself silently. Why didn't he answer my question before? That doesn't make any sense... why would he be walking around in the woods when there's a battle going on?
Jonn thought hard about all he'd heard about the great Meridellian knight's battle against Lord Darigan not so long ago. Sam was always quick to weave stories about Jeran's bravery and courage while they marched, and Jonn had often listened in wonder as the Draik spun tales of the fierce Lupe's triumphs and tribulations. The Zafara could recall no mention of Jeran ever abandoning his troops to take a stroll through the woods.
"That's because he's no coward," Jonn thought suddenly. In his paws, the Sunblade began to pulse to life again, and the false Jeran before him cringed back from its brilliant light into the shady confines of the nearest thicket. "He's not a coward at all! I don't know how -- but that CAN'T be the real Jeran!"
The young Zafara's eyes flew open, blazing with confidence and rage. "You're not Jeran!" he snarled at the cowering Lupe. To Morguss, the bent and battle-fearing little potato farmer seemed to be getting bigger, looming above her with the eager Sunblade clenched in sure paws.
"Of course I'm Jeran!" Morguss shouted back -- but her real voice crept through her disguise, a squeal of rising terror. "Give me my sword back, you little deserter!"
Fury and the Sunblade's glow made scarlet shapes dance across Jonn's features. The mouth over which a smile normally played cheerfully was now fixed into a grimace of anger. Advancing upon the impersonator, he roared, "SHOW YOUR TRUE FACE!"
The Sunblade exploded with light, dazzling Jonn. Morguss screeched and clapped her paws to her eyes, her armour melting back into mouldy hood and cloak, her fingers shrivelling into hooves once more. A painful keen rattling her twisted tusks, she turn and fled blindly back into the forest.
Jonn soon lost sight of her, but he hardly cared. Chest heaving, he turned on his heel and raced back toward the battlefield, crying at the top of his voice, "I'm coming, Sam! I'm coming! FOR MERIDELL...!"
Date: Feb 4th
A hoarse cry sounded from the woods behind him, and Sam turned briefly to look for its source, hoping that it might possibly be Jonn. But he saw only the rising sun, and quickly turned back to the battle.
Why did I say such a thing to him? Sam thought miserably, parrying the overhead strike from a Darigan Skeith's poleaxe. I don't know what happened, suddenly I just lost control and yelled at Jonn, and now he's probably still back there with his sword stuck in the mud, or worse...
He contemplated turning back, but that was no longer a possibility. The other Meridellians were crowded together behind him, and besides, friendship or no, it was his duty as a soldier of Meridell to stand and fight until the end, no matter what.
His dilemma was interrupted when a Darigan Scorchio flew overhead, tossing large rocks onto the heads of the Meridell army, and Sam quickly raised his shield. The Ixi at his side yelped in pain, and Sam saw that now the sky was raining rocks onto them, shot by catapults on the farthest edge of the battlefield.
Gritting his teeth, Sam continued to march forward, knowing that now they had almost certainly lost the battle. An arrow struck him in the shoulder, and he dropped his sword, wincing.
Jonn... must I die knowing that I have betrayed you? Sam asked silently, hiding his injured arm behind his shield so the Darigan warriors would not know that he didn't have a weapon.
Flinching, Sam turned away, as a beam of light shone into his eyes. He squinted and looked around; the Darigan army had stopped attacking, blinded.
Sunshine? But it's so bright... he wondered, searching for the source of the dazzling light. The Darigan soldiers were moving again, running wildly in all directions, seemingly from something behind their own ranks.
A gleaming blade shone upward from where their enemy had been gathered and moved rapidly across the field, striking down one Neopet after another.
Sam could now barely make out the silhouette of a Zafara, elegantly striking with the copper-tinted sword.
"That can't be... Jonn?" Sam exclaimed and whooped in relief when the figure grew closer.
The few uninjured Darigan soldiers slowly began to set down their weapons, realising how badly they were outmatched. It seemed the battle was over.
The light dimmed, and Jonn rushed over, once again holding a rusty, ordinary sword.
"Sam! You're hurt!" he cried, sheathing the sword and embracing his friend. "This is all my fault, I never should have left..."
Sam wanted to say something to correct Jonn, but no words emerged from his mouth, and he collapsed, exhausted. Jonn started to yell for help, then turned to see a huge shadow looming over the battlefield, and felt the Sunblade hum, ready for another fight...
Date: Feb 5th
When Jonn had unmasked Morguss as a false Jeran, the Moehog had fled and returned, shaken and incensed, to the Citadel.
There she was greeted by Kass, who was not in one of his better moods.
"And so you failed me, Morguss."
"You have failed me. The task should not have been difficult for a witch of your cunning."
"The Sunblade, Sire. It knows its true owner, I could not touch it. I could not foresee this. It is more powerful than ever, Sire, and a danger to you once more."
"Who wields it?"
"A mere youngster, my lord. A Zafara hardly of any rank, not even a trained soldier by the look of him."
"Fetch me my commanders."
Morguss scurried out hurriedly, burning with shame, reduced to running the errands of a page-boy.
"What a disgrace," muttered Kass into his beak as the Moehog witch exited the command room.
Kass went to the window and gazed out toward the battlefield far below the Citadel. Darigan and Meridell's armies clashed like seas of two different colours, one bruised black and purple, the other blood-red with glints of sky-blue and a sun of gold.
The harsh lines of Kass's profile were accentuated by the sun's slow-slanting beams as he watched the tides of battle turn, eddy and swirl below. Lights danced off of spear-points and shields, off of Meridellian helms and Darigan claws, off of a sword, one sword, red-hued, there at a ragged edge of a Darigan formation...
Kass's keen Eyrie eyes narrowed at the sight.
A knock sounded at the door.
"Enter," spoke Kass, never removing his eyes from the crimson spark far below.
"You summoned us, my Lord?"
"I am joining the battle."
"But Sire--" came the collective gasp of Kass's assembled commanders and advisors.
"It is time I showed these Meridellians what war really means. My armour, Morguss."
Morguss materialised out of her habitual shadowy corner, having drifted there after the commanders' entrance in the hopes of being unnoticed and forgotten.
Had Kass been watching, he would have noticed an expression more malicious than usual on the ill-used Morguss's face. The witch was resenting being treated as a lowly squire, and this was made manifest in her ravaged features.
Morguss moved to the armour rack. Thirteen words of magic were whispered under the Moehog's breath as she pressed a worn hoof to Kass's helmet, right in the centre of the crown.
"Your armour, my Lord," she called to Kass, whose gaze was fixed obsessively on the battlefield below.
Kass donned his helmet and chestplate impatiently, adding a shield, several daggers, and his own mighty sword to his arsenal.
"This battle is over," he said to his petrified commanders.
Three strides brought him to the window and one leap brought him through it, out into the heated air above the two armies. He beat his wings in time to the clash of weapons below, angling downward, westward, and directly toward a certain red-gleaming sword wielded by a young Zafara, a hundred feet below.
As the shadow loomed larger, Jonn took a step away from his fallen friend and searched the sky. Boulders from the Darigan catapults were tearing through the blue and landing with terrible accuracy on Meridellian troops -- but the shadow immediately above him was not caused by them. It was caused by a black and purple shape moving toward him on wings that were wickedly fast and borne by intentions both sinister and deadly.
Kass landed with lethal grace on the scuffed-up ground of the battlefield, taking in his cowering troops, the injured Draik, and Jonn in one crimson sweep of his gaze.
"This has gone far enough," said the Eyrie in the same dangerously quiet voice that set his advisors on edge.
Jonn felt the hair along his spine stand on end as Kass drew his sword with the elegance of a true master. His own weapon felt unwieldy in his paws, and he wondered how he could possibly hold off an opponent of Kass's magnitude, magical sword or not.
Kass leapt toward him in a flurry of strikes, and Jonn did his best to parry them, his entire soul bent on placing trust in the Sunblade, his concentration on merely holding the thing steady as it blocked, deflected, and countered Kass's formidable swordplay.
The sword was magical, but its wielder was not. Every second was exhausting Jonn further: he had pushed himself beyond his limits twice in battle already, and this third fight was taxing him; the sword drained him of energy even as it defended him from the razor edge of Kass's weapon time and time again.
"Drop the sword," hissed Kass.
"N-never!" cried Jonn, completely winded, but defiant to the last.
Sparks flew with each blow, Kass stepping a precise circle around Jonn, who could barely hold the Sunblade up in time with each strike. Finally, Jonn almost lost his grip on the magnificent blade, and Kass saw his opportunity.
Their audience -- for the Meridellians and the Darigans had, for a brief moment, come to a ceasefire to watch the combatants -- held its collective breath, certain that Kass was going to finish the fight as Jonn struggled to regain his hold on the Sunblade.
But Kass did no such thing. The Eyrie merely flexed a powerful wing and cuffed Jonn with it, sending him sprawling, grasping the Sunblade to his chest, into the mud.
Kass stepped over to Sam and, to his great satisfaction, saw Jonn's face contort in fear.
"A friend of yours?" he inquired with deceptive politeness.
"I don't even know who that is," lied Jonn, wide eyed, avoiding Sam's gaze.
"I don't know him either," supplemented Sam, struggling to his feet.
Kass was always an excellent reader of Neopets, and he knew a blatant lie when he saw one. He nodded slowly and held his blade precisely at Sam's neck.
"I see," he said as he turned to Jonn. "You know what to do."
"Give me the Sunblade."
"I won't! I'll stop you first!" cried Jonn, holding the sword up in hands that were shaking.
"The sword, Zafara."
Kass made a sudden movement, and Sam flinched as cold steel almost ended his life.
"All right! All right, I'll do it!" said Jonn, unable to endure having his friend in such a position.
Jonn threw the Sunblade at Kass's feet, where it tumbled in a glow of angry reddish light.
Kass was on the Sunblade so fast that no one had time to blink before he had tossed his own sword carelessly aside and grabbed the magnificent blade by its hilt.
"Finally," he breathed in the ruddy glow. "Mine."
Magical swords, we have already observed, are temperamental pieces of weaponry. The Sunblade in particular was very sensitive to its wielder's intention and spirit.
And so when Kass held the sword lovingly to his face, it began to fade right back into its previous state as an old, tarnished relic of battles long-gone.
Kass watched, uncomprehending, as the mythical sword faded into rusted metal that would be lucky if it could cut through butter, much less rout an army.
That was when the quick-thinking Sam lunged for Kass's own sword and brought it down, hilt-first, on Kass's head -- a reckless move that would have, under normal circumstances, have resulted in nothing but a dent in Kass's helmet. However, by some unknown magic -- vindictive Moehog witches notwithstanding -- the blow went right through Kass's helmet to his skull, which it bounced off of with a very audible thunk.
Kass went down like a sack of potatoes, only with far less grace, as Jonn would later specify -- and he knew a thing or two about potato sacks.
The battle was won the minute Kass was felled. Darigan troops took to the skies if they had the good fortune to be winged, otherwise to their feet, and quickly.
Jonn and Sam were swarmed by Meridellian warriors in a congratulatory group embrace. The sea of red and blue was soon parted, however, to make way for a certain Lupe: Jeran was pushing his way through to where Jonn and Sam were being nearly strangled by thrilled soldiers.
Jonn held the sword out to Jeran, feeling slightly foolish about giving such a pathetic-looking item to a hero of such renown. But Jeran merely smiled in recognition and took the blade, commenting that it always had been rather a capricious sword, but a good one nonetheless.
"You did bravely," said Jeran to Jonn and Sam. "I am going to see about having you two knighted."
Sam looked positively elated, Jonn both pleased and embarrassed.
"What is going to happen to the Sunblade?" asked Jonn, curious about the fate of such a tremendous weapon.
Jeran looked ruefully at the mangy-looking sword hanging by his side. "I'll keep it somewhere safe. But don't worry. It will find its way into the right hands, some fateful day when its magic will be needed again. It always does. Whether they will be my hands, or yours, solider of Meridell, or even some potato farmer's, I can't say."
Sam and Jonn exchanged amused glances as they made their way off of the battlefield, Sam already talking about the great deeds he would commit and complicated plans for crusades against the wicked.
And Jonn walked by his side, glad to be alive, glad to be going back to his quiet farm in the green valley by the hill, where the river drew its hues from the dusky sky, and Neopets slept in warless, dreamful ease.
Date: Feb 5th
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