Invaders of Meridell: Part Four
The strategy has been rearranged.
This time, Meevy and Taron are guarding the western front, facing most of the Draconian Grundos. Willard is near the middle, able to come in and assist if needed. Kellie is, as usual, a little farther behind, but ready to help as well. Bob is separate from the rest at the far east.
They haven't spoken to Bob yet. And Meevy, herself, isn't planning to. Traitor, she calls him bitterly in her mind, the poisonous word spiking through her eyes whenever she looks at him.
It's strange how much she has changed. Before, Bob's desertion wouldn't have affected her. She wouldn't have cared. But she must admit to herself that, in fact, she does care. She does have ambition, and a certain protectiveness for their mission.
She and Taron don't talk much as they fight, but it's not an uncomfortable silence. It's more of a peaceful agreement, and they work well together, with Taron doing the close up battles and Meevy sending her quivering arrows into their enemies from behind.
They had decided to rearrange after Mission Four. They had come dangerously close to losing, and they had lost two villages. That was not permissible, so something had to be changed. And so they did; and so far, it had gone well. The brunt of the invaders had not come yet, but at least Taron and Meevy's end of the group is pretty prepared.
An invader Grundo burst, panting and mutated antennae quivering, out of the brush. Meevy and Taron simultaneously attack it, and the conversion takes only minutes. Meevy walks over to retrieve her arrows, and when she returns, she meets Taron's congratulatory grin with one of her own.
Weird. She actually smiled.
She can see the rest of the invaders up ahead, however. There are, to be frank, many. Will they be able to hold them off?
Keep to your cynical self, Meevy, she tells herself. If you get too confident, you'll be unprepared for the worst.
She grits her teeth and wipes the smile off of her face, forcing herself to remember the crying Neopets and the crushed homes in that ransacked village only a few days ago.
Keep your head in the game.
Bob is battling two invader Grundos at once, both huge, bristly, with large red insect eyes and glaring sharp teeth. He can do this. It's only two. He's done this before. After all, he is Bob the blue Techo, renown for his prior achievements, his rank Lieutenant and his name known across Meridell.
He grips his weapon, spinning it in a complex dance, parrying and twirling. He's a better fighter than Taron, he thinks to himself. Look how fast he is. How strong. How brave.
Yet his hundred percent isn't concentrated on the fight. The words of the others are still pounding on his head, that Scorchio archer girl's poisonous arrows burying themselves one by one into his brain.
"How could you run off like that?"
"Are you in this for Meridell or in this for yourself?"
And when the others think he's not listening:
"I always knew he'd turn out bad. He was always so self-centered and immature."
The insults are pounding against his head, pressing against his eyes. Making the two invaders turn into four, then eight, then sixteen. They're all glaring at him with accusing red insect eyes.
He can feel the magical book inside his cloak, heavy and large, bumping against his chest as he moves. It's slowing him down. He unbuckles his cloak and lets the book fall onto the grass.
And now the Draconian Grundos are gaining on him, every second faltering his step. He knows he can't depend on Kellie to heal him. They're all resentful.
At his best, he knows he could easily defeat them. But without Kellie's help, and without the support of the others, and with all the conflict in his mind, he's not sure.
His insecurity only lasts a second, but that's all it takes. One of the Grundos deals him a blow from below, which knocks him over, then the other attacks him while he's down.
And then he's gone.
Willard paces back and forth. He's not sure if he should go help Meevy and Taron, or assist Bob. He can see, from a distance, that Bob is battling two Draconian Grundos, and not doing too well. Should he go and help?
Why is he always stuck in the middle? Why is he always left with the decision?
He sighs and turns to Bob's direction, then squinting when he sees a scuffle.
Then his aged eyes widen.
Bob is getting back up... but it's not Bob. It's an invader Techo, like they had battled in their second mission. Yet, it is still wearing that cloak that Bob had been wearing previously.
One of their troop has been converted.
Willard pretends that his age translates into experience, but, quite frankly, he is stunned. He sees the golden Techo rise up, glaring back at him, and he is shocked to see this. Annoying or cowardly, Bob was still a villager, a fellow Meridellian, from the same village Willard came from.
Willard breaks into a run eastward, where he knows Taron and Meevy are. Running is awkward and tiring, and he's panting within minutes, but there is no choice.
He arrives as they are in the midst of a battle with four Grundos. He instantly leaps in and begins to tackle one on Taron's side. With both of them, one is easily converted and they space out better to help Meevy. It's easy work, with their experience and skill. Willard remembers how awkward and unwieldy they all used to be at the beginning, and now they're basically a single, coordinated, fighting machine.
When the last Grundo is converted, Willard takes a deep breath before sharing the news. "Bob's been converted," he says, gruffly. He quickly explains what he has seen.
The others are as stunned as he was. They had all been all angry at the stuck up Techo, but to know that he's been converted into an invader just seems unreal. It's a moment before they begin to talk again.
"We've finished the rest of the Grundos over here," Meevy says practically, "I guess we'd just have to go east and attack him... or... the invader Techo... just like any other?" It's obvious that the words taste wrong in her mouth. How are they supposed to attack one of their own?
Yet they shrug nonchalantly, and, without talking, turn towards where the sun is just rising--Willard hadn't realized as the night had passed--hoist their weapons higher onto their shoulders, and begin walking.
Meevy sends arrows into the invader Techo's head. One after another, meticulously systematic. This is not the blue Techo that has been fighting with us for all these months. This is not the one that comes from a village, has grown up in Meridell, just like the rest of us.
No, this is just a Draconian Techo. With no name, with no particular significance. At all.
It twists in pain from her arrows. Willard and Taron attack it from the other side, until it sinks down to the ground, vanquished.
Meevy immediately turns away and moves her concentration over to the Draconian Grundos at her back. She doesn't even look back at the writhing invader Techo. She feels the heat at her sides of Willard and Taron. They don't want to think about it either.
When they turn back, the converted Techo... or Bob... or whoever... is gone.
"Maybe he'll find his way to a village," Taron says, optimistically. Willard agrees with a silent nod.
Meevy shrugs. All she knows is that they have lost one of their five.
But they can do it alone, she knows. They make a good team.
They knock what seemed like an infinite army of invader Grundos into three, then two, then one. The last is stubborn, but it takes only a few of Meevy's arrows to eliminate that one, as well.
There is just silence.
The peaceful calm of nothing. No slavering Moehogs, Techos with bright gold shells, no monstrous Skeiths, no tall, towering Scorchios or insect-like, red-eyed Grundos.
They're all gone.
Kellie climbs up the edge of the hill to join them, panting slightly. "Is that it?"
"Yeah," Taron answers, "that's it."
And it is as if they are releasing the breath that they have held for a very long time.
The celebration had been decided to be in Snidberrydell, Taron's hometown. Kellie smiles as she looks around. Over by the shrubbery, two young Draiks, apparently siblings, annoy the very harassed Willard, who is attempting to hide behind a tree. Taron and his friend Cortney are laughing over by a pile of large marrows, and Taron's smile is wider than it has been for a long time.
Meevy, Kellie's longtime companion, is standing uncomfortably at the edge of the glade, her tough but limber Scorchio body leaning on her new, glistening brown bow, quiver of arrows fixed onto her back. She's gazing at all their friends, just as Kellie is. Their gazes meet and they exchange a smile.
Kellie's still shivering from the tension, stored up from months of hiding, fighting, and casting. The anticipation and adrenaline that is released after reciting a spell. The tightness of her lungs when she's wondering what's happening to her friends.
Because that's what they are. Her friends. Strange.
Now, she doesn't know what to do with herself. The missions are over. All the invaders are defeated. Meridell is safe.
She enters the back of the hut that has been designated for the four of them--not five, they're still not sure which village Bob had wandered off to--by the relieved townspeople of Meridell. There, she curls up, lets her antennae wilt, and unrolls the scroll which has been the essence of her spell casting.
She begins to let the smooth, gelatin-like words roll off her tongue, and instantly she feels at home.
Sebastian smiles. The thrill of the win fills him with energy. For the first time in his life, he has beaten the fifth mission. Beaten the First Wave. He has done it, and with almost all of his troops intact.
He may not be well known. He may not be insanely rich.
But at least he can win at Invaders of Meridell.
"The villagers give you 30 neopoints (5 NP per village) as a sign of thanks for coming to their rescue."
Somehow, even though he knows its just a game, he feels as though his villagers are celebrating as well.
A Draconian Buzz smiles down at the complacent Neopets, frolicking in the village below. His wings buzz noisily, cutting the air with metallic blades, but no one looks up.
They think they have won.
But they have still to encounter the secretly set up armies of better trained, better organized troops. A new attack, far outranking these first five, led by the military elite Buzzes. One that will destroy and defeat these cowardly, weak villagers.
The Second Wave is on its way.
Note: This story is based on actual events. The original invasion of Meridell occurred in 300 BN. During this time King Skarl was inexperienced in defending the kingdom, and Meridell was mainly a wooded area populated by several small villages. Draconians, later known as Darigans, were evil, twisted, mutated creatures with wings, hooves and other spiky bits who attempted to invade this peaceful and prosperous land. Eventually, with the courage and skill of unnamed villagers (on who the characters in this story are based on) who took up arms to defend their loved land, the invaders were defeated and expelled from Meridell.