"And then he came out of the shows Fir! Like…almost like
a shadow himself!"
"Hmm…" "Then, you know that statue of the Draik
behind the castle? Well it's actually a tunnel! Can't believe it huh? Anyway,
he pulled the tail!" "You don't say..." The one-sided conversation trilled on
as Jeran animatedly prattled on and on while Firiden hurriedly worked about.
All around them the challenger's tent erupted with the roar of excitement. Restless
steeds neighed, swords clashed and clanked, armor was shined and finished while
all the while the time slowly ticked away closer and closer to the contest.
Jeran looked around in a bit of a forlorn state. The knights all had armor which
was almost too beautiful to describe, gilded with their family coast of arms.
Though Jeran cold not entirely sneer at the armor which he had managed to scrape
up, he couldn't help but feel a twang of jealously at what he did not have.
Yet as he held his faithful sword in his paw,
a kinship with the inanimate object sprung to his mind. He knew that even without
the things which the knights had, he would be fine with his simple sword by
"Okay, now Jeran, remember what we practiced
with footwork and swordplay….just…be careful, okay?" Firiden offered a bit unenthusiastically
as he rustled through his things to check that he had given Jeran everything.
The young Lupe gave a large grin towards the nervous Ixi, taking his faithful
sword in his paws again.
"Don't worry, Fir, I mean..." Jeran gave a sigh
and looked around at his surroundings. The finest knights of the kingdom were
here, with some of the most luxurious armor that Neopoints could buy...but he
wasn't afraid of them, and he voiced this feeling to Firiden.
"Look Fir, we can't buy a Uni, or maybe even
a perfect sword, but I think we have a halfway decent shot! I mean, how many
of these knights here can say that they've trained as hard as we have?" Jeran
asked, a pure smile coming over his face. Firiden looked up at his friend, a
glint of nerves in his eyes. However, at the words of Jeran his face broke into
a true smile just as the crowd erupted into a roar outside.
"Better get ready, looks like you're up next..."
Firiden said, nudging Jeran towards the opening of the tent. The Lupe gave another
heart-warming grin and, adjusting his cheap armor and belt, pelted towards the
area opening. He could feel his heart racing in his chest as he ran; this was
the sort of thing that he lived for!
He honestly had no idea of the outcome, whether
it would be good or bad. But to simply feel the power of the fight and the vigor
and passion that came with it, he knew that in the end, win or loose, it would
all be worth it.
"Here we go..." he asserted himself before stepping
into the circle. It seemed almost as if then his ears had fully been turned
on as the roar erupted all about him. The sky above glittered while the puffy
white clouds soaring about. The stands were filled to the brim with all manner
of citizens of Meridell, noble or peasant alike, while the king sat in the royal
box, surveying it all. Cheerfully the flags wafted in the breeze, the colorful
sight a smile of laughter to Jeran's face.
From the other side of the area he saw his opponent
sulk out of the darkness, a hulking figure in what seemed to be dark armor.
Jeran could not make out his face at all, which caused him a slight chill at
the thought of a faceless knight. They both studied the situation before them,
waiting for what seemed like the perfect moment to strike.
And then they did.
The swords clashed together instantly, a loud
clanging filling the stadium. The cheers and jeers were lost on the pair's ears
as the flittered around the area, each of them parrying and dodging each blow.
Though the dark armored stranger possessed a hulking brutality in which he could
crush any normal pet with a single blow, Jeran's small frame was more menacing
then his adversary. And though the giant's blows appeared to be devastating
in many respects, every hit Jeran made was slowly denting into the armor of
his foe. However the expert craftsmanship behind it did not allow for such a
pathetic sword to deal a decent amount of damage.
This is impossible! Jeran thought. His
armor is too thick, I can't get through! His thoughts buzzed about as he
tried to think of every conceivable way to beat his opponent, but with every
dodge and jump he made was more vigor lost. Jeran began to wonder how long he
could continue with such pathetic hits before he was too tired to continue,
when saw as his foe raised his sword in a mighty attempt to finish him off.
It was then Jeran took note of the gap under the dark night's arm. A huge gap
in which the armor seemed to be lacking...
That's it! he thought. Quickly he dodged
the blow and thrust his sword up towards the foe. The opponent gave a howl of
pain at the pain as if he sustained an injury worse than this. The underlining
of the armor was punctured, exposing their dark brown fur underneath. Jeran
gave a smirk of triumph and went in for the final blow. His intentions, however,
were easily spotted from the injured knight. With a mighty blow the dark knight
struck at Jeran, who tried to parry the blow with his sword...
CRASH! The sword on a sword contact has fared
for the worse on Jeran. His beloved sword was simply no match for the shining
weapon of steel as it snapped in two upon contact. There was a hush over the
stadium as Jeran held the pitiful hilt of the sword. He tried to weigh the rest
of his options, yet none seemed to fare too good for him.
No sword...no shield to hide behind...it seemed
over for Jeran...
Jeran heard a soft metal clink down on the ground
beside him. Cautiously he looked to the side only to find a shining sword next
to his paw. It was easily one of the finest pieces of weaponry that Jeran had
ever beheld in his sight with its glittering hilt full of jewels. And though
perhaps to any person this would seem like the oddest occurrence, Jeran did
not bother to question this odd twist of fate. With lightning fast reflexes
he snagged the blade off the ground, graciously evaded the blow from the foe
and struck, his aim strong and true.
Jeran's ears buzzed from the roar of the crowd
as the knight fell to the ground. All around him the spectators cheered viciously;
completely amazed at the spectacle before them. Jeran himself couldn't help
but give a big grin which flitted away when another thought entered his mind.
His gaze turned to the wonderful item in his hand. He didn't remember the sword
sitting on the ground when he entered the arena…so where did it come from?
Before he could dwell on the subject any longer,
Jeran realized that he was being led away by two rather official looking Aishas.
They didn't seem to offer any explanation to Jeran, who was far too stunned
to really object to being led away. In the end, Jeran let himself be led off,
casting the crowd a sheepish grin to which they happily lapped up.
"Erm...hey...where are we going?" Jeran inquired
of his guides. One of the officials cast him a rather idiotic look before continuing
in their way, neither saying a word.
Out the competitors tent, down the fairgrounds
for what perhaps seemed like miles until they reached what appeared to be the
last tent on the fairgrounds. Never before had Jeran's eyes seen such a delicately
ornate tent, or one which was as highly protected as this.
As the Aisha's approached the tent, none of the
guards seemed to question their presence as they barreled through the entrance,
pulling Jeran in with them. The Lupe's eyes darted about, looking around the
inside of the tent in an awed manner, but ceased staring once he noticed who
he was in company with.
"Sir, is this the one you wanted to see-,"
"Yes, thank you that will do!" The voice boomed
joyfully, the two Aishas bowed themselves out of the tent. Jeran continued to
stare in complete disbelief at the figure before him, so seated in an extremely
comfortable makeshift throne was none other than King Skarl.
"Ahh! Jeran! Good to see you again!" he laughed,
causing Jeran to look up in complete shock.
"You-you remembered my name?" he asked in stunned
disbelief. Skarl let out another laugh and waved his claw in a nonchalant manner.
"Of course! You remembered mine, did you not?"
"Well...you are the king sir..." Jeran admitted
a bit sheepishly to which the king chortled at again.
"Ahh, suppose you are right! In any case, I simply
wanted to congratulate you on your win! Excellent skill! And I must laud you
for it!" Skarl said as he hoisted himself out of the chair to clap Jeran on
the back. Jeran shook his head and smiled at the king's kindness.
"Thank you your majesty, however my skill honestly
had nothing to do with this! If that spectator hadn't given me this sword...why...I
think I would have been finished right there!" Jeran exclaimed, unsheathing
the sword to show the king. Skarl let out another deep chuckle and pointed at
"Jeran, my boy, I'm rather surprised! You haven't
figured it out?" Skarl boomed, wandering back to his chair. Jeran cast the king
a quizzical look, who in turn motioned towards the shining sword in Jeran's
hands. The young Lupe looked at the sword in his hands.
Beyond the fact that it was truly a wondrous
item, nothing particularly indicatives of what the king was hinting at came
to mind. Turning the sword over amid the light from an open flap in the tent,
an engraved seal on the hilt of the sword became apparent to Jeran's eyes, which
looked exactly like the King's royal seal.
"Every good knight needs a sword Jeran, and I
daresay that your last sword was...rather poor," The king commented, gently
taking the sword from Jeran and resting it beside his throne. Skarl began to
look about his room, searching for something though Jeran knew not what it was.
Thoughtfully the king hoisted himself out of his throne and began to rummage
through the delicate cases in the room, stopping only when he discovered what
he was looking for.
"I was never able to properly thank you for your
help back in the forest, so I must insist that you take this as a small token!"
Skarl's arms extended, holding out a case to Jeran. The Lupe tenderly took the
case, silently trembling. He ran his paws over the polished wood with embedded
with the seal of Skarl's lineage in the center, slowly opening it, as if savoring
the moment. The inside of the beautiful chest amid the folds of dark blue velvet
rested a wondrous item the likes of which Jeran had not seen...
It was a precious blade wrought with the most
pure silver Jeran had ever seen. Up and down the spotless blade ran dozens of
intricate patterns and swirls, subtly enhancing the beauty of the sword. Jeran
grabbed the sword in his hands, swinging it about through the air as it made
an almost unearthly whooshing noise, as if it was slicing the air itself. He
turned towards the king, his thoughts lost in every aspect.
"My...my lord it's...I can't...you really..."
Jeran tried to make to give the sword back, but Skarl stepped back and waved
his hands in a frantic manner.
"Really Jeran you act as if this is completely
uncalled for! You did after all save my life (not that I couldn't have taken
them all on my own, mind you), and so I must repay your gratitude! However..."
At these words the king adopted a stricter glare and leaned in closer to Jeran,
his words much lower. "If you do loose this tournament, I for one shall be extremely
displeased as I bet the royal treasurer that you would indeed win. Do try to
win, least I have to pay that fool Snargan, though I'm sure that if I win he'll
simply pay me with my own money..."
Jeran's mouth broke into a smile as he gave a
low bow. "Of course your majesty!" he proclaimed before excusing himself from
the tent. He felt as if he was simply running on air, on happiness even! Everything
in the world itself was wonderful, from the sun above to the rather disgusting
pile of brown…whatever it was…down the lane! As he passed by each contestant,
all offered congratulations and cheers, while the women from the stands eagerly
pointed and giggled as he passed. Jeran rushed through the competitors' tent
to where he knew his friend would be, fervent to tell him the experience.
"FIR! FI-," he quickly stopped, his wagging tail
failing slightly as he noticed the Ixi's absence. Sadly Jeran sat down upon
the bench, his happiness somewhat deadened without the opportunity of sharing
this happiness with his friend. Yet through the sadness Jeran's thoughts turned
towards the sword he grasped in his hand. He simply couldn't wait to get out
into the area and try out the new weapon when a rather dirty stable Techo tapped
Jeran on the shoulder, interrupting his musings.
"Excuse me sir, but I believe these are yours..."
The Techo said before dumping a bundled heap into Jeran's lap. "This was left
on the field and we assumed that you wanted the remnants," The Techo explained,
leaving before Jeran could make any inquiry about the package. Slowly he unbundled
the item only to find his trusty sword lying there, shattered into two. He felt
a strong sense of pain for his fallen friend, his most trustworthy sword for
these past years. He turned the hilt of the broke sword over in his hands, remembering
his glee when Firiden gave him his first sword ever. How strong the opponent
must have been if he could smash a sword in-half! Jeran's paw ran over the wound
of the sword, yet something did not feel right…
Above the break, the metal looked as if it had
been mercilessly hacked and beaten. Jeran could feel thousands of deep axe-made
gouges around the break. He knew that these marks had never been on the sword
before which lead him to only one conclusion...
Someone wanted Jeran's sword to break...
The brown Lupe hunched in the corner, whimpering feebly as he grabbed his upper
arm. Though extremely big for his size, it did not deter form the fact that
he was a huge cry-baby. The wily Acara hissed at the Lupe to be silent while
he tried to look the angry Eyrie in the face.
"Look sir it-,"
"How hard is it...?" he posed the question silently
as the Acara began to cower. "To have a sword weakened, then to have this swine
of a Lupe smash the sword and finish off the boy?" his voice was calm and cold,
disturbing the two beyond any measure. The Lupe made a motion to talk, but once
again was silence from a growl with the Acara.
"S-sir...we did get the sword to snap! But-but..."
The Acara frowned and tried to find the most delicate words to explain the situation.
Instead the burley Lupe finished the Acara's train of thought.
"That Skarl, he gave da Lupe a sword! Threw it
down from his stand n then da Loope, he got me!" He said, gingerly pointing
to his wound. The Acara tried to hush the Lupe, willing him to say no more,
yet the damage had already been done. The Eyrie learned forward, his piercing
eyes set on the brown Lupe before him. His twisted beak shone in the crackling
firelight, throwing his shadow against the wall in grotesque exaggerations.
"So the king helped out the peasant?" the Eyrie
inquired to which the Lupe vigorously nodded. The ancient jailer thought for
a bit, his brain now discerning this information, traveling in thousands directions
at once. He gave a cackle as the full thought came into view and waved a clawed
hand at the pair.
"Very well, then. Now both of you leave and do
whatever it is that you fools do! I have things to mull over," He turned away
from the pair, as if no longer interested in their existence. The two convicts
exchanged confused glances before sulking out behind the bookcase, elated that
they luck had not run out on them yet. The white Eyrie listened carefully as
the hidden compartment behind the bookcase shut, echoing a gentle clunk as it
did so. Beyond that there was no sound in the room for a few seconds, save the
sinister crackling of the fire place. The Eyrie did not even bother to look
up from his pensive musing as he spoke these words aloud to the empty study.
"I assume that you heard every word of the conversation?"
he asked. The words seemed addressed to someone, though no one was even in the
room. However a dark shadow from the depths of the study stirred, his eyes fixated
purely on the Eyrie while he shifted in an uncomfortable manner.
"Of course," he replied. The Eyrie let out a
sinister laugh, still staring at the opposite wall.
"And you know what to do, I assume?" he asked
again. The shadow paused for a a moment, as if willing himself to not say what
he wanted to say.
"Of course," he said again. The Eyrie's beak
twisted and smiled gleefully.
To be continued...