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The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Six


by ridergirl333

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The Fall of Lord Kass

"NO!"

      The Amulet was shattered. Tiny green feathers and bits of skull flew. Kass lay on the ground. And for the first time in his life, he was helpless.

      Darigan offered his hand to help Kass to his feet. "It's over, my friend. They can't control you anymore."

      Kass couldn't see Darigan's hand. He couldn't see the ground beneath him, or his own paw in front of his face. All he could see were shimmering silver mists. He was surrounded by mists. And from those mists stepped the fair and terrible Lady Gathelianne, the Lady of Ambitions. Lord Ranagro, Lord of Revenge and Nuntio the Master of Greed soon followed. "You failed us, Kass," Lady Gathelianne whispered in a voice as melodic as flutes.

     

     Lord Ranagro the Gelert nodded. "As we knew you would."

      Nuntio the Skeith gave a grunt. "And we aren't disappointed."

      It was true. None of them had thought that Kass would last long. According to Ranagro, if you used Neopets to carry out your orders, you were doomed to failure. They were weak, weighed down by trivial, silly things like morals and friendship and love. They served best as temporary vessels. Paper cups at a dinner party. Once you're done with them, you throw them away.

      "NO!" Kass cried. He'd lose the power, everything he worked so hard for! "NOOOOOOO!!!" Leaping to his feet he made a mad dash into the Citadel. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the vision of the mists. But it didn't help. The Three still glared at him with those cold, icy glares. The Citadel lurched, fell half an inch. Because the engines had failed, Morguss was having a hard time keeping the Citadel afloat. "Kass!" Darigan cried. But it was no use. The Eyrie couldn't hear him.

      A low moan. Darigan turned to see the half-conscious Danner coming to his senses. Darigan approached the Wocky and lifted him. "Come along, son. You have to help me."

      The Citadel lurched again, making Darigan wince. Morris and Boris clung to each other in fear. Danner was still trying to work his tongue properly. "Whu? Help? With what?"

      A third lurch shook the Citadel. "We need to get out of here, fast," Darigan said. "Morris, Boris, you two see if you can grab Unis. And take Danner. Meet me back at the castle, later."

      "But where are you going?" Morris asked.

      Darigan lifted his staff. "I've got a former comrade to save. Kass might have fallen, but he was a loyal warrior back in the good old days. I owe him." And with that, he darted into the Citadel.

      * * *

      The silver mists shifted color, became vile shades of green and purple. The once-familiar halls of his Citadel seemed alien and strange. More like a swampland than the palace of a king. "You failed us, Kass," Whispered a voice in the mists. Lord Ranagro. "I didn't!" Kass protested, his paws covering his eyes in terror. They'd take away the power!

      Lord Ranagro nodded. "Failed to gain Revenge on Skarl."

      "Failed in your Ambitions," scolded Lady Gathelianne.

      "Even your Greed wasn't strong enough!" said Nuntio.

      Unable to see through the mists of his vision, Kass collided sharply with a pillar. The room shifted, but Kass didn't notice. Didn't notice that his Citadel was in danger of falling. All he noticed were those Three terrible voices in his head. "Leave me alone!" he begged them, finally opening his eyes. "I never promised you anything!"

      Lord Ranagro grinned like a child. He loved seeing that terrified look on Kass's face. "Wrong, Kass," he said in a sing-song voice.

      Nuntio nodded. "So very wrong." He and his companions closed in on Kass. They had him pinned against a wall, right where they wanted him.

      And Lady Gathelianne said the words that seemed to run Kass through like a spear. "You promised us everything."

      Nuntio gave a grunt of agreement. "And because that's what you promised…"

      "That's exactly what we'll take." A cruel smile played upon Lord Ranagro's lips and he uttered an ancient word of power. Kass braced himself, trembling in fear. They were going to take away the power! They were going to take away everything he had to lose…

      A flash of green light. And nothing remained of Kass but a pile of sludge.

     * * *

     

     Darigan saw the sludge, and knew what had happened. They had gotten to Kass, just as they had once gotten to him. "Dear friend," He whispered, "Why did it have to end this way?" Scooping the pile of sludge up, Darigan took it into his hands.

      A Darigan-colored Kougra came up behind him. "Lord Darigan, sire, the people of the Citadel want to see you in the courtyard. We need to surrender officially."

      Darigan nodded. "I'll be there. Meanwhile, get your most skilled mechanics. We need to get the engines up and running again." The Kougra nodded and dashed down the hallways, and Darigan turned towards the courtyard. The Kougra had called him Lord Darigan.

      A week ago, he would have sobbed aloud upon hearing that name. But now, the title was one of a benevolent ruler. It no longer carried pain or shame with it. In fact, it was now a source of pride.

      He had redeemed himself. Made up for his past mistakes. He had stalled Kass long enough for the Neopian troops to come, at great risk of his own life.

      The title was rightfully his. A new era was dawning on the Citadel. And the future looked glorious.

      Only one problem. They were still here.

      "You've done nothing, Darigan!" shrieked Lady Gathelianne.

      "You'll come back to us," said Lord Ranagro.

      "Sooner or later," grunted Nuntio.

      Darigan smiled dryly. "No," he said. "I won't. I don't need you anymore. Get away from me!"

      The last strings of their hold on him had broken. He was no longer their puppet. And with a poof of grey smoke, they vanished.

      And the Citadel lurched again. Remembering his duties, Darigan rushed to the courtyard.

Regrets and Redemption

      Duty…

      The word was painful on Lisha's tongue, as though she had eaten slivers of metal from the broken shields and swords that littered the land. The people of Meridell kept saying that Jeran had died in the course of duty. As though that would be any comfort…

      Steel-grey clouds loomed over the horizon, heavy with withheld rain. Lisha felt like one of those clouds. Gloomy, miserable, and ready to burst. The Aisha Knightess walked through the castle courtyard. It used to be such a beautiful garden, filled with mighty trees and fragrant, pretty flowers. Once a haven of peace, it was now a symbol of the destructiveness of war. Every last tree, flower, bush, every last twig had been reduced to ashes and rubble. Everything was painted in shades of grey and black. Despair and darkness. Far less than the rainbow of color it had once been.

      Finding a burned-out log, Lisha dusted the loose soot off and sat on it. The frail thing gave way beneath her weight. That's how Lisha felt. Like all the life had been burned out of her. She was numb and weak and ready to cave in.

      A faint light made her look to the garden's south end. There stood Darigan, half-covered in soot. "I always dreamed I'd meet you, Lisha the Lioness," Darigan said softly. "But I never dreamed it would be like this."

      Though his tone was unthreatening, Lisha still couldn't entirely trust her former foe. "What do you want?"

      "To enjoy the scenic view with you," Darigan said sarcastically, moving towards Lisha and accidentally stepping on the remains of a heart fruit tree. Seeing that Lisha wasn't in the mood for jokes, Darigan decided to get to the point. "I'm sorry about your loss, Lisha. Jeran was a noble knight. He'll be missed."

      Lisha nodded silently, unsure of what to say. After staring into the dust at her feet for a few moments, she said, "And I'm sorry about… you know. Kass."

      "Don't be," Darigan said shortly. "He was a fool. Didn't heed my warnings." He paused, his eyes glazing over as his mind visited a time and place far away. Memories of the Orb and the faces of the Three danced through his mind like a nightmare. After a pause, Darigan said, "But Kass… didn't deserve to go like that. No one deserves to go like that. I'll never forget that look of terror on his face…"

      Lisha nodded solemnly. Darigan sat beside Lisha, causing the hollowed log to collapse further. "But why are we exchanging apologies? We can't undo the past. I was seeking you for a different reason."

      "What?" Lisha asked, genuinely curious.

      "I wanted to give you this." Reaching into the pocket of his toga, he withdrew a few small, green feathers and broken bits of skull. The pieces of Kass's amulet.

      Startled and repulsed, Lisha jumped up and backed away from the pieces as though they were wild, angry beasts. "I assure you," Darigan said calmly, "they have little, if any, power. I wouldn't give you an item I deemed unsafe."

      Hesitantly, Lisha approached Darigan again. She held out her paw, and Darigan poured the small pieces of the amulet into it. "If there's ever a chance that our friend might possibly be able to… come back, then seize that chance. Trust me on this one."

      Lisha nodded. "Thank you, Darigan. I know exactly where I'll keep these." She turned and fled from the garden. She darted into the castle, up the stairs and into her bedchamber, where Jeran's letter was sitting on a nightstand in its envelope. Carefully, Lisha poured the pieces into the envelope.

      When she returned to the garden, she found Kayla, Morris and Boris sitting on the log with Darigan. Morris and Boris had their faces buried in Darigan's toga, and Lisha thought she heard the faint sound of sobbing.

      "It's all our fault," Morris wailed. "If we hadn't been such idiots… imagining we're knights, playing children's games…"

      "Quit beating yourselves up," Kayla said. She was trying to sound tough, but Lisha knew that seeing her two best friends in this state was tearing Kayla up inside. "You can't shoulder the blame for what a lot of other people have done. Mainly, I blame that vile Kass and The Three."

      "And Jeran," Lisha added. "He chose the life of a knight. He chose the death of a knight." Looking back on those words later, Lisha would regret saying them. They sounded like they were blaming her brother. But it was the truth…

      "Bu-but… I… That is to say, we… Augh!" Boris cried in agony. "I just wish the thought of knighthood had never crossed my mind!"

      Morris nodded. "We don't deserve to be squires, much less knights!"

      "Yeah," Boris agreed, throwing his chain mail to the ground in disgust. "We've been kidding ourselves. Living a dream."

      There's nothing wrong with dreaming. Darigan looked up to see Faith, perched in the blackened skeleton of a tree. "He says there's nothing wrong with dreaming," Darigan said, gesturing towards Faith.

      Lisha raised her eyebrows. "The Weewoo spoke to you?"

      "We developed a psychic connection. Long story. The fact is, he know what he's saying. Listen to him. His name is Faith."

      I've seen you train, Morris. Faith said. Darigan repeated his sentences aloud so that the four young Neopets could hear what he had to say. You have a lot of potential skill with a blade. And most importantly, you're the most courageous young Quiggle I've ever seen. You have the potential to be great. Jeran would not want to see that potential wasted.

      And you, young Boris. You're a cool-headed warrior, and you don't panic when you get into tight situations. A rare find among those as young as you. You have just as much skill and potential as Morris. Jeran wouldn't want that to go to waste either. The two of you are the ultimate team. And enemy kingdoms should be shaking in their boots in a few years, at the sound of your names. Morris the Brave and Boris the Wise.

      "But… we messed up so badly!" Morris cried.

      "Not more badly than I messed up," Darigan said dryly.

      Nor I, Said Faith. Seeing as how I acted as a double-agent against Darigan's father all those years ago…

      "If we can redeem ourselves," Darigan said, putting his hand on Morris's shoulder, "You can."

      "Thanks," Boris said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Morris, it's time to get back in the saddle. Time to train once more."

      Morris nodded, his face turned toward the overcast skies. "Maybe this time, we can actually become knights."

      And the skies opened up, pouring sheets of healing rain onto the smoldering landscape. The last fires of the war were extinguished, but it would be a long time before things would get back to normal.

      Heroes Never Die

      That night, all of Meridell was silent as a tomb. Soldiers picked up the rubble of villages and the pieces of their broken lives. Neopian Times reporters swarmed over the land like Buzzers over flowers. They crowded the king's throne room, demanding interviews. Lisha sat on the stairs outside the throne room, listening.

      "Of course, I knew we'd beat Kass all along," Skarl said, taking a big bite out of a turkey leg. Food half-hung out of his mouth, causing some reporters to grimace. "I came up with every plan. Dividing our forces between the ground and the air. Sending Jer…" For a moment, Skarl's mouth stopped moving, as he caught himself in mid-sentence. "Anyway, Darigan was a fine warrior. Helped keep the enemy at bay while my troops were getting ready."

      "Disgusting, isn't it?" Lisha turned to see Martin the yellow Lupe strategist coming down the stairs.

      Lisha nodded. "Nine out of ten of those troops weren't even his. They were volunteers and independent warriors from Neopia Central, Tyrannia, the Lost Desert, and places all over Neopia."

      "To imagine that so many people would come to our aid in our time of need," Martin said with a sigh. "Amazing. Anyway, I don't know why His Majesty is taking credit for my plans."

      "We'll talk about it after this mess is sorted out," Lisha said wearily. "In the meantime…"

      "Excuse me, King Skarl." A sweet, bell-like voice interrupted Lisha. Startled, she got up and entered the throne room.

      Flying through the window was the most beautiful air faerie Lisha had ever seen. Hair like goldenrod and sheer, shimmering wings. Psellia. And in her arms, she held the limp body of Sir Jeran Borodere. She carried him through the window and through the door, into a nearby room.

      Reporters crowded around the faerie, all shouting in excitement. "Back off!" Skarl commanded gruffly, getting up and standing in the doorway of the room. "I said away! Back! Before I call the guards!" One of the Draik guards lifted his spear in warning. Sheepishly, the hordes of reporters backed away. "Good," Skarl commanded. "Now leave." They left, all muttering in discontent.

      Lisha entered, alone. "Jeran?" she whispered, hoping against hope that he'd respond. "Jeran, please answer me! Jeran…" Unable to bear it, the Aisha burst into tears.

      Skarl looked on from the doorway, silently. What had he done? He had taken credit for a lot of other people's actions. He had taken credit for Jeran's achievements. Regret weighed his heart like a heavy stone. And the tough, strong, noble king retired to his bedchambers to cry.

      Faith looked on from the windowsill, spreading his wings out in the silvery moonlight. His red, gold and blue stripes were more obvious than ever. It's true that they say. He said to no one, for Darigan wasn't there and Faith shared the psychic connection with no one else. Heroes never die.

      Lisha gasped. Had her brother's fingers just… moved? It must have been a trick of the light, some sort of cruel joke that the moon was playing!

      They just go away for a while. Faith continued. And they always come back when we need them most.

      "Lisha?" said a familiar voice. The Aisha jumped back, startled. She knew that voice. "Jeran…" she whispered.

      "Lisha…"

      "Jeran?" Lisha repeated. "You're… alive? You're alive!" For a brief moment, Lisha looked into her brother's eyes. Jeran sat up a little. And for the first time since the war began, Lisha was happy. She and her brother were together.

      But she had to shatter her happiness by asking, "How can this be?"

      "It can't," Jeran said simply. "I think Psellia and Astael played around with the threads of time a bit. Something to do with light magic balancing dark, the power from the pieces of Kass's amulet and the power of the Sunblade…"

      "In plain English?"

      "I'm still dead."

      "Oh." Lisha's world shattered in that moment.

      "This is just a magically created shadow of me. Not sure how they did it… but I'm here."

      "Oh."

      "Oh will you quit with the 'oh?'" Jeran said. "We're together now, at least for a little while." He paused. "And you know I'll never leave you alone, right sis? And even if I can't be here physically, I'll always be in your heart."

      "I know." Lisha's eyes refilled with tears. "Besides, aren't the sappy speeches my job? Your job is to go out there and kick the bad guys' tail feathers."

      "Well that's your job now," Jeran said, putting his paw on Lisha's cheek. How real he felt! And yet, how cold! "I want you to have the Sunblade. Kasha would want you to have it. You're a sun-spirit, like me. Give my old sword to Morris and my armor to Boris. Give Kayla my blessings; I don't have anything else that she might want. And try your best to make sure that Meridell is protected."

      "Will do," Lisha said, smiling through her tears. "And you, Jeran… I just wanted to let you know that you're my hero. Not because you swing a shining sword or because you save kingdoms…" She glanced at the Sunblade hanging from his belt. "Though that stuff is cool. You're my hero simply because… you're my big brother. And you're brave and strong… and you make the right choices."

      "Morris and Boris told you about the incident in the Citadel?"

      "Yes. And Jeran… if I were in that situation, I'd be terrified. I wouldn't know what to do. I'd panic. I'm not knight material; too emotional, too easily distressed. And I don't know how I'll defend Meridell without you."

      "Try," Jeran said. "You'll do fine." He drew the Sunblade from its scabbard and presented it to Lisha. Lisha took it. The metal felt hot to the touch, and shone with a soft, reassuring light. And in its weight was the weight of defending a kingdom. And in its light was the light of Jeran's spirit. And the sword would never be heavy for as long as it had that light. Jeran would never be dead as long as Meridell lived.

      "Thank you, Jeran," Lisha said. "Thanks for everything."

      He nodded. And he was gone.

Epilogue

      Things in Meridell quieted down after the war. People returned to their normal lives; or as normal as life could get when many households had an empty place at the table at dinner every evening.

      Peace between Meridell and the Citadel reigned. It was a peace signed by treaties, sealed with vows. A peace that hopefully would last a thousand years.

      Darigan invited Kayla to move to the Citadel. Kayla graciously accepted the invitation. No longer would she conduct her experiments in a dusty old attic. Darigan gave her a clean laboratory in the basement. She even opened a shop in Meridell! Just like her idol, Kauvara. She was a legend.

      After their near miss with death, Morris and Boris learned to be a little more serious when it came to the ways of battle. That year, they became knights. Boris grew into Jeran's bronze armor, and Morris eventually learned to wield Jeran's heavy sword.

      Lisha continued to train, and eventually became Meridell's Champion. "Lisha the Lioness, Champion of Meridell. It has a nice ring to it," Morris had admitted. "But I personally think Sir Morris the Brave, Champion of Meridell sounds better." He winked to show her that he was kidding. Lisha, Morris and Boris became good friends with Danner. He taught them how to use a crossbow. And he mocked them good-naturedly when they missed their targets. Especially when Morris almost hit Sinsi the Shapeshifter Ixi in the behind.

      Skarl never again brought up the fact that he hadn't come up with any strategies during the wartime. The people continued to think that he was their hero. He didn't deny it, but didn't confirm it either.

      Martin held a bitter hatred towards Skarl for stealing credit for his strategies. Never really got over it. Poor guy. He continued to serve Skarl for another 15 years, before quitting his job and riding off to some faraway kingdom. Meridell didn't see much of him after that.

      Darigan strived to rebuild his kingdom, and his people's faith in him. He freed Master Vex from the dungeons, and embraced him as a friend again. Darigan also took Galgarrath's son, Vrandragg as his new Battlemaster and confidante. "Your father was a good friend of mine," he said to Vrandragg. "And his shoes will be difficult to fill." "I'll try my hardest," Vrandragg had replied dutifully.

      Lisha's owner, Hillary, and Lisha's brother, Chuck Foxpaw the red Kyrii, didn't take Jeran's fall well. Chuck had idolized the Lupe-knight. "Nothing can destroy Jeran…" He kept saying to himself through his tears. "Nothing. He's invincible… the Champion of Meridell… And he's my brother…"

      In a field outside of Meridell, a young Lupess lay beneath the stars, alone and forgotten. "I'm sorry, Jeran." She whispered into the infinite blackness. "I tried to save you, tried to warn you, tried to protect you… but I failed. And I'll make it up to you. At least, I'll try. Even though I can't roam Meridell's streets freely like a normal citizen… it's still home.

      "And I love it. And I'll improve and defend it indirectly until the end of my days. Creating the net was just step one. There will be other acts that I'll do. Just watch.

      Meridell Forever."

      * * *

      Darigan visited Kass's grave often. It was in the cemetery where Darigan's grave had been, only a few meters from the tear in the earth where Darigan had risen. It was marked with a grubby piece of marble, unpolished and carved to look more like a blob than any recognizable shape. Evidently, the people of the Citadel wanted to properly remember Kass, but changed their minds halfway through. Darigan couldn't blame them. After all Kass had put them through, they had a right to hate him. After the brainwashing, the throwing of people off the Citadel, and the terrible war, they had a right to cast his urn and headstone into the ocean, never to be seen again.

      But Kass wasn't entirely unloved. Darigan was sure to stop there once a week, at least. And when he got there, he'd often find little trinkets. A bouquet of violets, a few gold coins, a silk handkerchief. The origin of these gifts was a mystery, as the giver had taken great pains to conceal her pawprints going to and from the grave. She always came when no one else was at the cemetery. Probably, Darigan theorized, under the cover of night. But no matter. If she wanted her identity to be secret, then Darigan wouldn't waste energy trying to figure it out.

      Today, he knelt at the grave, staring blankly at the poem he had chiseled into the headstone.

      "He had everything to lose

      And nothing more to gain.

      He moved an army out of wrath

      And brought the storm, the rain.

      A rain of tears to water

      The burned and ruined fields.

      We only can hope that with time

      We might begin to heal.

      Goodbye Kass."

      "A rainbow follows ev'ry storm," he whispered. "Not much consolation. Rainbows can't repair broken houses, can't replenish the supply of crops. Can't bring back lost lives. But it can rekindle lost hope. And that's what Meridell most needs.

      "Meridell Forever."

The End

    Author's Note: The poem on Kass's grave was inspired by "Everything to Lose" by Child_dragon, in Issue 131 of the Times. An awesome story.

Thanks for waiting so long between parts of the series. I apologize. The NT submission form is a fickle friend.

 
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Other Episodes


» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part One
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Two
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Three
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die - Part Four
» The Adventures of Lisha and Jeran: Heroes Never Die: Part Five



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