The Sorceress and the Prisoner: Part Three
Jeran scoured the castle for his sister, a tiny shred of worry in his heart. It was well known he was protective of his sister, despite her being a powerful sorceress. She usually came to him when he called for her, as he did to her, out of mutual respect for the other, but there was no pattering of light footsteps coming towards him, no happy hug to see her brother not training. He wanted to spend some quality time with his sister, as he hadn't for weeks, perhaps even months. She must have gone out. Jeran walked out of the castle and strode around Meridell, greeting people that passed by and stopped to gaze in awe of him. Many Lupes gathered in groups to admire their hero, and blushed when he smiled at them, turning away in embarrassment. Jeran was used to this attention, but it still made him laugh. He didn't feel like laughing just yet though. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Tormund walking back from the food shop.
Tormund was a yellow Lupe who considered Jeran his idol. Jeran had even offered to help train him, and Tormund couldn't believe his luck. He was growing into a strong and reliable knight, and Jeran was very proud of him, and often told the young Lupe so after training. Now, though, Tormund noticed the slightly worried expression on Jeran's face, and questioned what was wrong once he drew closer to him.
“It's Lisha,” Jeran told him, still gazing around Meridell. It was the middle of the day, and many species of neopets were bustling around the busy town. “She's gone off somewhere and hasn't told anyone where. Have you seen her?”
“Jeran,” Tormund placed a paw on his shoulder. “Don't you think you're overreacting ever so slightly? She's a sorceress immune from enchantments, what's the worst that could happen to her? She has probably gone to Brightvale or something to catch up on her reading.” Just as he was saying this, however, a memory clicked in his brain. “Oh!” He exclaimed, remembering something. “I think I did see her actually, about an hour ago as I was making my way to the food shop.”
The knight felt relieved instantly. “Where was she?” He persisted. “Where was she going?”
“I think she was going to play Cheese Roller.” Tormund recalled, then stepped around Jeran. “I'm glad I could be of help, but I have to get this food back to my farm. Good luck finding her!” At this, he broke into a run and hurried home to the farm where he lived and worked. Jeran watched him leave until he could no longer see him, then headed for the Cheese Roller hill.
Over the hill he saw the abandoned picnic, and his heart sank. That was Lisha's favourite tablecloth, that the two of them always sat on when they had picnics. As he got closer to the scene, he noticed a drink was turned over and the basket was on its side, and a sandwich had been half eaten and was now lying in the grass, as if someone had been in a rush. Why would Lisha be in a rush? ...Why someone be in a rush to get to Lisha? He cleared away the picnic, just as a shadow fell across the area. He looked up – and saw Darigan Citadel floating there in all of its glory. Jeran shook his head and stared back at the picnic. Where would she have gone in such a rush? What could have been so drastic she had to leave without clearing everything up?
Jeran looked up at Darigan Citadel again, this time a frown forming on his forehead. He felt for his sword that rested by his side and clenched the handle. Then he relaxed his hand and walked back to the castle, carrying the picnic basket with him. There was no way Lisha could have gone to Darigan Citadel. She couldn't fly for a start. And no one would offer to fly her up there; she wouldn't even ask for such a favour. And even if she had, that still didn't explain the rush she was in.
No. There was something else going on with Lisha. He just had to figure out what exactly.
* * *
A drip fell onto Lisha's nose, startling her awake. Not that her sleep had been comfortable to begin with, her bed being a stone slab with a thin sheet, and not that she had been tired in the first place, but there was nothing else to do. The drip persisted until Lisha concluded it must either be raining outside or there was a faulty drainpipe that just so happened to be directly above her head. That was how her luck was right now. She'd never really been particularly lucky, either, but this was just awful. As a truly huge drop landed on her open eye and she groaned, she sat up and tried to figure out how large her cell was.
Cautiously stumbling forwards with one hand pressed to the wall, she walked around the outside of her cell and it took her a mere five seconds to reach the other end. It was about two metres by two metres, almost a perfect square. There were bars across two sides, one side where obviously she would eventually be let out of, but the bars were built so closely together she couldn't even stretch her arm out far, only up to her elbow, and even then it was a squeeze to get her arm back out. The other side showed the cell next to her, which occupied one prisoner who hadn't yet spoken to her. From what her eyesight could make out, her cell was completely grey in colour, unpainted, just the natural colour of the stone, and there was at least a whole low row of about twenty from the voices she could hear and the amount of time it had taken Galgarroth and Lord Darigan to walk her down this corridor. She was on the end cell – her arm twisted around the bars enough for her to fell a wall on her right hand side. Master Vex must have placed himself at the other end of the room, because she didn't feel or make out his presence near her.
She curled up on the floor, leaning against the bars that showed the cell next to her, and felt like crying. This was what she got for trusting someone and wanting to do a good deed. The world was backwards in handing out good fortune and rewards, it really was. But just as she was welling up a bony hand touched her shoulder and she gasped in surprise, turning around to face the prisoner in the cell next to hers.
He was close enough so she could see him clearly, and she shuffled backwards a few paces so he couldn't touch her again. The Prisoner was a White Lupe, dressed in brown rags and carrying a wooden staff that he was banging on the floor impatient. He was the oldest Lupe Lisha had ever seen, and he was almost skeletal from lack of nourishment. His eyes were wide and alert, and Lisha couldn't help but feel there was something not quite right about this character. Around his neck was a plaque that read: 'Prisoner Number Five'. There was no name mentioned, and it looked like the Lupe had been here a very, very long time. Enough to send him crazy.
“You! Young girl!” He squawked, his voice croaky with age. He banged his stick and pointed it at her. “Are you in here because you know the secret too?”
The secret? Lisha stared at the old Lupe. “You know the secret?” She wondered, playing along, when in reality she had no idea what he was on about. Unless he knew about Lord Darigan's plans too? Though she reckoned everyone down here knew that, he'd hardly been discreet.
“Yes! Jelly World does exist! I can prove it. I can lead you all there, but no one listens...” He went off into a mad mumble of gibberish that made no sense to Lisha. “No one listens to me...old Lupe...bad Lupe...stole Jelly...as proof...I am old now...you girl...you know, too...” He suddenly snapped his head back up and nodded at Lisha. “Yes, you know too! Don't you? It exists!” Everything he said when he wasn't muttering came out as a strangled shout which frightened Lisha a tiny bit. She didn't know what to expect with this guy.
He definitely was crazy though. Of course Jelly World didn't exist. No wonder he was locked up in here. Spreading rumours like that! It was just an old legend, a fairy story for kids. Lisha felt a rush of sympathy for the poor old Lupe and sat closer. It was a mistake – he jabbed her with his staff in his excitement. Moving backwards once more, Lisha wondered how she was going to cope with this. “Of course I believe that,” she lied, just so she'd have one (albeit a little mad) friend. She decided to take a shot. “What do you about Lord Darigan as you've been here so long?” She licked her lips anxiously, waiting for his answer.
Prisoner Five squinted at the Aisha for a few seconds, miraculously silent. Then he banged his staff on the floor once more and muttered under his breath, “It does exist, it does exist,” before turning around and going into a little corner, still talking to himself.
“Hey!” Lisha shouted, annoyed. “I was talking to you. What do you know about Lord Darigan?”
She had spoken too loud. She heard steady footsteps drawing nearer, until she could see Master Vex stood at her cell with his arms folded. He didn't look too pleased.
“Sorry...” Lisha mumbled, ducking her head. “I just need to do something while I'm in here. Master Vex, you must understand!” Her tone changed to frustration and clutched the bars of her cell tightly. “You helped us before, when Lord Darigan was out of control, why not now? You must realise this is madness.”
Master Vex raised an eyebrow. “Madness?” He repeated. “This...is...WAR!”
Lisha gasped. “War is definitely happening then? There's no going back? Please, Vex...there must be a way to stop this from happening. I know you're good. You, Galgarroth, and even Lord Darigan himself.”
The Mynci screwed up his eyes for just a moment, before exhaling and shaking his head. “The only way to stop the war is to bring back the orb that King Skarl stole. Lord Darigan has the halves to make the whole, but nothing of what he has tried to put it back together has worked. No one even knows where the orb is, only Lord Darigan himself.”
“It would require...powerful magic?” Lisha had hope appear inside of her. She was a powerful sorceress, after all. She had to be able to do this. If only she could have the orb and the chance to look at various spell books in the biggest library of all – Brightvale Library. But she was trapped here. She looked at Master Vex seriously. “Maybe there is a way to solve this. But I'm stuck here...”
Master Vex scowled. “No, you are not allowed to be set free. All prisoners are here until Lord Darigan says otherwise.” He dropped the volume of his voice so only Lisha could hear. “But I do want to stop this war from turning into the needless deaths of thousands of lives. I rarely leave these premises, it would be suspicious if I did so. However, I can try and alert someone of something. No, no, it won't do. I thought you had something there, but Lord Darigan would suspect something instantly.”
“What about Galgarroth?” Lisha suggested. “I know he joined forces with you when you convinced him. Why not convince him once more?”
“I can try.” Master Vex murmured. “But that is all I can do, and I can promise nothing.”
After he left, Lisha sank back down onto what was now her bed. The dripping had thankfully stopped, and she suddenly felt drained. She closed her eyes. Just as she was drifting into sleep, she could have sworn she heard Prisoner Number Five chanting something, but she didn't know what. Probably something about that fake world.
“The Orb is in his floor, the Orb is in his floor, the Orb is in his floor...”
To be continued…